President Muhammadu Buhari has justified the decision of his government to construct a rail line linking Nigeria with the Niger Republic despite criticisms that trailed the plan.
Speaking during an exclusive interview broadcast on Arise TV, Buhari said the government’s decision to connect Niger with Nigeria by rail through Kano was to allow his Nigerien relatives easily have access to Nigeria.
“I have cousins, family members, etc., in Niger Republic. I shouldn’t just cut them off,” Buhari said.
He also cited transportation of oil from the neighbouring country to Nigeria and job creation as other reasons for constructing the rail line.
Buhari also said the rail is useful because their are other Northern Nigeria tribes in Niger Republic. He said he hopes the rail project will encourage Niger Republic to boycott Benin Republic and do direct business with Nigeria.
The Nigerian government had in January 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mota- Engil Group, a multinational engineering and construction company, for the construction of the $1.959 billion Kano to Maradi (Niger Republic) rail line project.
Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, signed the agreement on behalf of Nigeria while Antonio Gvoea, managing director of Mota- Engil Group, signed on behalf of the firm in Abuja.
The rail line is expected to run through Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states and terminate in Niger Republic territory.
“The 283.750 kilometre rail line, besides developing freight and passenger transport as it will be integrated with road transport, will make a great contribution to the local economy as well as an important development in the social sector,” Amaechi had said.