•Lists gains of Nigeria-Niger Republic rail link
•Directs conclusion of financial plan for Lagos-Calabar rail project
By Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh and Kasim Sumaina in Katsina
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the military service chiefs to be decisive in dealing with terrorists and ending the insurgency in the North-east without further delay.
Buhari has also justified the extension of the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya rail line to Maradi in Niger Republic, saying the project, when completed, will boost trade between Nigeria and Niger Republic, foster trans-Sahara trade and contribute to the expected gains in the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, who spoke on the presidential directive during a visit to Maiduguri, said the president routed the order through the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj.Gen. Lucky Irabor, for them to come up with new strategies to rout the insurgents.
He stated that he has had meetings with the other service chiefs leading to the continuing tour of military formations in the North-east, including Sector 3 Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD) and the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
Amao, during his visit to the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, said: “Mr. President had given the Chief of Defence Staff, along with the service chiefs, the onerous task of bringing the war against insurgency to a decisive end in order to restore normalcy to all troubled parts of the country.”
He stated that they had already begun to “take action in this regard, holding several meetings to evolve strategies for better synergy in the joint operations.”
According to him, in line with the president’s mandate as well as the defence minister’s strategic guidance, he has crafted his vision for the service, which is “to enhance and sustain critical airpower capabilities required for joint force deployment in pursuit of national security imperatives.”
He added that the vision is hinged on five key drivers which include “focus on doctrinal development and application of airpower in joint military operations, pursuit of purposeful training and human capacity development as well as sustenance of platforms and equipment serviceability through innovative maintenance methods and logistics support systems.
He listed other key drivers as “fostering a disciplined workforce essential for combat readiness and bolstering morale by improving personnel welfare.”
Amao, therefore, charged all personnel to do their own bit towards the attainment of the noble objective.
He said the focus on joint doctrinal development is premised on the need to evolve new ways of doing things in order to achieve better and longer-lasting results. He stated that in terms of pursuing purposeful training and human capacity development, the service will sustain and build on the capacity building initiatives of his predecessor while ensuring that training will be robust and balanced.
Amao also said in sustaining platforms’ serviceability, the service will continue to leverage on the acquisition of new platforms while ensuring effective maintenance of existing ones.
He said in addition to the 23 new aircraft the federal government acquired for the air force, 15 additional new manned aircraft – 12 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft and three JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter jets – as well as eight new Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) were also being expected.
He noted that the additional new aircraft will add value to operations in the North-east and other operational theatres.
Amao also addressed personnel during his maiden operational visit to the ATF Headquarters in Maiduguri and the 171 Nigerian Air Force Detachment (171 NAF Det) in Monguno to assess the conduct of the counterinsurgency operation as well as inspect facilities and ongoing projects.
Amao, in company with the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, commended the ATF for the recent successes recorded in the renewed offensive by the land and air components of OPLD.
He stated that the NAF headquarters will continue to provide all necessary support to ensure “the sustenance of critical airpower capabilities required for joint force employment in pursuit of national security imperatives.”
On welfare issues, Amao said in line with the president’s mandate to ensure adequate welfare of all personnel, his administration will give priority to the provision of equipment, uniforms and kits, while ensuring the prompt payment of allowances and provision of residential accommodation for both serving and retired officers.
He commended the ATF commander as well as his officers, airmen and airwomen for their hard work and dedication to duty, as evident in the intensive rate of effort with missions being conducted day and night to attack terrorists’ targets as well as provide support to ground troops, whenever required.
He called for the strengthening of the synergy with the army and other security agencies to ensure total victory.
Buhari Lists Gains of Nigeria-Niger Republic Rail Link
Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday justified the extension of the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya rail line to Maradi in Niger Republic, saying the project, when completed, will boost trade between Nigeria and Niger Republic, foster trans-Sahara trade and contribute to the expected gains in AfCFTA.
Buhari, during the virtual ground breaking for the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi rail line, also directed the Ministry of Transportation as well as the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to conclude financial plans for the execution of the west-east coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar.
The $1.959 billion Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi rail project, covering 284 kilometres, was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by the president last September.
The president, in a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, noted that Jibiya and Maradi constitute a significant trading core between Nigeria and Niger Republic – a tradition dating back many centuries.
“This vital infrastructure line will establish an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport services between northern and southern regions of the country, reaching Nigerian southern ports of Lagos and Warri.
“The entire route encompasses territory inhabited by close to 80 million people across 10 states of the country. This project has a branch line to Dutse, the capital of Jigawa State, to open up this corridor which is endowed with vast resources,’’ he stated.
He said the Kano-Maradi rail line has been identified as a viable line that will enhance the movement of passengers and freight to the hinterland, especially raw materials from both agricultural and mineral resources for industries.
“The rail line traverses the major commercial and administrative centre of Kano and passing through other economic hubs of the country, including Kazaure, Daura, Katsina and up to the border town of Jibiya and the Niger Republic city of Maradi, “ the president stated.
Buhari said the Kano-Maradi project, when completed, will serve import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports.
“The country would earn revenue through expansion of trade and commerce, while the people of Niger Republic will benefit from ease of transportation logistics at affordable cost in their import and export business,” he added.
The president also gave directives for the conclusion of financial arrangements with appropriate co-financiers that will partner with the federal government for the construction of the west-east coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar.
According to him, the coastal rail line will connect Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
“Furthermore, the contract for the important central railway traversing Itakpe-Baro-Abuja with connection to Lokoja and a new seaport in Warri has been signed and is expected to achieve an appreciable level of completion during the tenure of this administration,’’ the president said.
Buhari commended the construction company handling the project, Messrs Mota-Engil Nigeria Limited, for supporting knowledge and technology transfer by investing in the establishment of a learning Institution for Transportation and Railway Science.
“We have in the rail sector embarked on the completion of the 1,424 Kilometre Lagos-Kano rail line to join the one being flagged-off today for the country’s western axis.
“On the eastern corridor of the country, the Port Harcourt-Enugu-Makurdi-Maiduguri rail line with branches to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State, have been awarded for reconstruction to include a deep sea port in Bonny Island and a railway industrial park in Port Harcourt with the objectives of achieving a vibrant and functional railway,” he said.
Governor of Katsina State, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, appreciated Buhari for bringing the life-long dream of the state to reality with the inclusion of the Kano-Maradi rail line.
Masari urged the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, to work towards the completion and inauguration of the project by 2023.
Amaechi said the feasibility study for the Kano-Maradi railway started in 2012 and was concluded in 2015.
He thanked the president for his support and regular intervention.
Amaechi said the entire network of the project has 15 railway stations of different categories with major stations of approximately 3,000 peak passenger-capacity in Kano and Katsina and stations of standard category in Kazaure, Daura, Jibiya and Dutse.
He added that there will be minor stations in Dambatta, Shargelle and Mashi as well as halt stations in Kunya, Kano Airport, Muduru, Dadara and in Niger Republic at Annol Mata and Maradi.
He stated that the rail line is also provided with accessories and special installations, including power and water supply schemes, signalling system and communication in GSM-railway, freight yards, rolling stock depots and maintenance workshops.
Also, the Minister of Transportation, Niger Republic, Mr. Sadou Seydou, said the project will help Niger Republic in the development of transport infrastructure and facilitate movement of goods and services across the border.