Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki has called on advanced nations to demonstrate sufficient commitment to the growth of the African development.
Saraki who stated this in Paris, France at the Nigeria International Partnership Forum with the theme: Building Excellence for the Future of Nigeria’s Transportation System: Reforms, Results and the Road Ahead, called on developed nations to take an interest in what is happening in Africa “because how African nations tackle development through its policies and projects are not only beneficial to its citizens, but also reverberate – positively or negatively- on the global stage.”
According to the Minister, the world needs a new strategy of development and growth that will be beneficial to all, stressing that the global community must be prepared to have these difficult conversations as “closing the continent’s huge infrastructural deficit is vital for the continent’s economic prosperity and sustainable development as improved infrastructure would facilitate increased intra-regional trade, reduce the cost of doing business, enhance competitiveness, create employment, and reduce the tide of illegal migration.”
She also noted that it was in recognition of these gaps that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration came up with the vision for economic recovery, diversification, and sustainability hinged on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, initiative, which focused on non-oil sectors such as Agriculture, Transportation, Industrialization, Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI).
While enumerating the successes recorded so far by the Nigerian government in the rail sub-sector to include a “25-year Strategic Plan targeted at the rehabilitation of all the existing narrow gauge rail lines, construction of new standard gauge lines, connection to all Sea Ports, State Capitals, Mining and Agricultural clusters and technological hubs,” she disclosed that this has led to the commissioning of the Abuja -Kaduna; Warri – Itakpe and the Lagos – Ibadan rail lines, as well as the Wagon Assembly plant in Kajola, Ogun State.
Of importance too according to the Minister is the unbundling of the Nigerian Railway Corporation into four subsidiaries namely: Regulatory, Infrastructure (network creation, upgrade & maintenance), Operations (network operations) and Services (the rolling stock operations, rolling stock creation and procurement and rolling stock maintenance) to “optimize operations and costs; advance private sector participation; drive competition in the industry; enhance service delivery for customers and improve infrastructure and other asset maintenance,” adding that the proposed rail projects will generate sustained freight growth of an average 7.9 per cent between 2021 and 2025.
In the maritime space, Saraki, said the government has been able to secure the Gulf of Guinea “through the instrumentality of the Integrated Maritime Safety, Security Waterways and Environmental Protection Strategies otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project that involves provision of Satellite and Communication Equipment, patrolling Assets and Capacity Building for the enforcement/intervention teams.”
As a result of this, “the International Maritime Bureau has severally commended this initiative and in one of its reports it noted that the number of kidnapping and robbery in the Gulf of Guinea in the second quarter of 2021 is the lowest since 2019. While 33 incidents of piracy were reported in the last quarter of 2020, six cases were reported in the second quarter of 2021,” the Minister said.
Another success story according to Sen. Saraki is the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019; the very first of its kind in Africa, which other African nations have taken to study and replicate.
In the road sub-sector, the government has upgraded the road stock by deploying innovative funding approaches for strategic road projects including the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) “which is investing over a billion dollars in three flagship projects: the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway and the Highway Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) which is a public-private partnership program to mobilize, in its first Phase, over One Trillion Naira in private investment into the development and maintenance of 12 key roads of about 2,000 kilometres in length.”
Furthermore, Saraki called for “Public-Private Partnership, PPP, in developing infrastructure and operations under a sustainable environmental condition in all modes of transportation with a culture of timely maintenance of transport Infrastructure”.