President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday urged the incoming Buhari administration to continue to boost the railway system as the cheapest and most effective mode of mass transit in the country.
The president said this when he inspected the ongoing construction of the National Railway Terminal at Idu and the Abuja light rail transit system.
Mr. Jonathan was accompanied by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Bala Mohammed, and the Minister of State, Olajumoke Akinjide.
The team boarded a train from Ring Road 2 Light Rail Station around Jabi and went on a ten-minute ride to Idu Transfer Station.
On arrival at the transfer station which is still under construction, Mr. Jonathan received a briefing from officials of the FCT and the construction firm, CCECC, before inspecting facilities at the station.
The president told reporters that the Light Rail project was important for Nigerians particularly Abuja residents and therefore, dismissed fears that it could be abandoned by the incoming administration.
He said he personally inspected the progress of the work on the project in order to know what exactly to tell Mr. Buhari when both of them meet later to hold discussions.
Mr. Jonathan stressed the importance of rail transport to the mass transportation system in the country, adding that the project would make movement of people and goods easy for the residents of Abuja and the environs.
He said he was impressed with the level of work on the rail project and specially commended the FCT ministers and the contractors handling the job for their efforts.
“I emphasised the need for rail system in terms of developing an effective mass transit in any nation,” Mr. Jonathan said.
“When we are talking about mass transit, you cannot talk about it using taxis, small cars, even the luxurious buses. It will be too expensive.
“We want our rail system to work and that’s why we are emphasising intercity and intra-city, normal rail and intra city light rail systems.
“Of course, this government is leaving on the 29th. The incoming government will definitely continue because this is a noble project to Nigerians especially residents of the FCT.
“We are quite appreciative of the level of cooperation. The CCECC has been doing very well and of course, the ministry of the Federal Capital Territory. They are doing wonderfully well.
“I’m quite impressed. I have been longing to come and inspect the project for a very long time but for challenges in terms of my commitments.
“I think, this period, I really need to so that when I am having conversation with the incoming president, I will know exactly what to tell him because I have seen it myself, I have seen the level of completion.
“Of course, you know the usefulness of this project in terms of easing the movement of the people in the Federal Capital Territory. I have to congratulate Nigerians for this project.”
Speaking, the FCT Minister, Mr. Mohammed assured that the rail project would be completed by August this year as all equipment needed for its completion have been delivered.
He said the Jonathan administration was able to secure a $500 millon facility for the project while the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, provided N20billion counterpart funding.
“Right now we have taken up to 61 percent of the sum. We do not have so much of financing challenges except for the next fiscal year which has been accommodated in the budget,” Mr. Mohammed stated.
Mr. Jonathan had also inspected the newly rehabilitated and expanded 10-lane Airport Road named after the former boss, late Umaru Yar’Adua.
The road project is part of the Outer Southern Expressway and Outer Northern Expressway that were awarded by late Mr. Yar’Adua at the cost of N257 billion.
The contract was separately awarded to Messrs Julius Berger, Dantata, and Sawoe and CGC Nigeria Limited.