The Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki has said that bridging the continents’ huge infrastructural deficit is vital for world economic prosperity and sustainable development.
Saraki disclosed this at the Nigeria International Partnership Forum theme: “Building Excellence for the Future of Nigeria’s Transportation System: Reforms, Results and the Road Ahead” in Paris, France, noting
that 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.
According to Saraki, the world should be interested in happenings in Nigeria and Africa as a way of coorporation beyond understanding of a sovereign states, as global issues are not confined within sovereign confines.
” 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”.
Saraki noted that the world needs a new model of development and growth that will be beneficial to all, adding that the global community must be prepared to have these difficult conversations.
“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.”
The Minister further noted that it was in recognition of the aforementioned gaps that 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).
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, as what 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.
The Minister said of note 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 & procurement and rolling stock maintenance) to optimise 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 of 7.9% 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.
She emphasised that ” 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 6 cases were reported in the second quarter of 2022,” said the Minister.
Another success story according to the Minister, is the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019; the very first of its kind in Africa of which other African nations have taken to study and replicate. An act aimed at securing timely prosecution of maritime offenders and since the promulgation of the Act, 12 cases have been successfully prosecuted and 10 convictions were secured.
In the road sub-sector, the government has upgraded the road stock by deploying innovative funding approaches for strategic road projects which include: 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 kilometers in length.
Recognizing that women are important in the chain of production, the Minister advocated that women should be empowered as gender inclusion are key to growth. The policies that are adopted by government must be mindful of the disproportionate challenges that women face due to infrastructural deficiencies, so that women become a critical component to economic recovery and growth.
“Engaging women and women-based enterprises on the supply and value chains of the infrastructural sector, must become an important part of the global ambition for post-pandemic recovery. After all, African women traditionally shoulder many family care responsibilities and, the frontline roles they played during the pandemic, exposed their resilience, vulnerability and the pivotal role women play in our societies”.
Saraki also 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.
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