The Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Mr Edward Onoja, Sunday said that Itakpe-Lokoja-Abuja standard gauge rail line should be prioritised, as the route is linking both the Northern and Southern states of the country.
Onoja said this in an interview after riding the Warri-Itakpe train in Itakpe, Kogi state.
While narrating his experience on the train as a pleasant one, he however, commended the federal government and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi for his passion towards infrastructural development.
“My experience was a pleasant one, though with hitches here and there, but pleasant in the sense that, by comparison, moving from Itakpe to Warri with the only option, which is by road.
“This by far outweighs it, in the area of comfort, risk level and by all standard. Kogi state government has done a lot by attracting infrastructural development to the state.
“The rail line is strictly a federal government infrastructural project, the proximity between Lokoja, the State Capital of Kogi and the Federal Capital is less than 200km, which eventually, linking Warri, and the entire South South to the federal capital, should not be something the state government should be pursuing, it should be a priority for the ministry of Transportation.
“It should not be something that should be lobbied for, it should be a priority,” he said.
The deputy governor stated that Lokoja is a gateway to the North and South, stating that the Governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello had made the state secured, which is a good platform for investment.
“Kogi is a good investment destination, Lokoja is closer to FCT where the whole world comes to, so it’s key to link it by rail, and it should ordinarily be as a baseline and priority to the minister of transport.
“Which he already said, he would close that gap, the distance is less than 200km, it is not a thousand kilometers project, the challenges I can see here, might be the River Niger, which needs to be crossed. But, even Itakpe rail line also crossed some rivers as you move to Warri, so crossing river is not the major challenge and the issue of land allocation for the stations within the state, will not be an issue.
“Connecting virtually every state capital to the rail way system in Nigeria, is a domino long time effect, it will take pressure off the road, which ultimately reduce the number of lives lost due to reckless driving.
“We commend the minister for this, but because of time, they need to set the framework running for the next government and administration to continue from their baseline, in ensuring all state capitals are connected by rail.”
He, however, called for proper maintenance of the Warri-Itakpe rail operations, stating that tickets were handwritten, e-payment was not accepted buylt only cash, coaches were overcrowded with over 100 passengers in a coach, the digital announcement board was not functional amidst other hitches.