…to present 2021 budget next week
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the 326 km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation.
At the commission which was done virtually, President Buhari described the rail project as an important link for the country’s economy and added that the rail line will link people across the cultural divides and expand the frontier of trade and commerce.
“The Railway Infrastructure that I have the honour to commission today is the rail line from Itakpe via the steel town complex of Ajaokuta to Warri, and is an important link for the country’s economy as the central rail line.
“This Government has also approved to link this line further from Itakpe to Abuja, thereby, connecting the Northern Zone of the country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports,” the statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying.
The President said further that he has approved the prioritisation of viable railway routes for either new rail lines or the reconstruction and rehabilitation of some, to achieve effective and efficient train services supporting the country’s trade and commerce.
He expressed confidence that the project, which serves as a vital link of South-South geopolitical zones of the country to the Northern zones, would be completed during the tenure of this administration.
“It will link people across the cultural divides and expand the frontier of trade and commerce, which will lead to better standards of living for our citizens,” he said.
To further give recognition to Nigerian sons and daughters who have distinguished themselves at nation-building and development, the 11 railway stations were named after some deserving citizens.
They include Adamu Attah Station, Itakpe; Abubakar Olusola Saraki Station, Ajaokuta; Augustus Aikhomu Station, Itogbo; George Innih Station, Agenebode; Anthony Enahoro Station, Uromi; Tom Ikimi Station, Ekehen and Samuel Ogbemudia Station, Igbanke.
Others are Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex, Agbor, Owa-Oyibu; David Ejoor Station, Abraka; Michael Ibru Station, Opara; Alfred Rewane Station, Ujevwu; and Michael Akhigbe Railway Village, Agbor
The President enjoined all Nigerians in the transportation industry, especially the railway sub-sector, to continue to support the Government to achieve other railway infrastructure projects.
He also enlisted the support of all at realizing this milestone of a functional and full-fledged central railway, after more than 30 years during which the project has suffered several setbacks and false starts.
“I implore those who work on this line to uphold the maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.
“By the same token, I urge other sectors who will be primary beneficiaries of this transportation backbone, including, the iron and steel sector, stakeholders in agricultural and mining sectors on this corridor, as well as the host communities to protect and sustain this infrastructure and maximize the benefits that could be derived from it and which is readily available at their doorsteps.
”This project will increase the volume of their trade and kickstart and resuscitate the iron and steel complexes.
”All these, I hope will improve our industrial potentials and capacities as well as boost employment,’’ he said.
Projections indicate that the commencement of operation of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line will account for close to one million passengers annually and also unleash approximately 3.5 million tonnes capacity of freight annually that will service all off-takers on the corridor and beyond.
In another development, Nigeria’s Senate President Ahmed Lawan on Tuesday said the National Assembly would receive the 2021 Appropriation Bill from President Buhari next week.
“I am aware that the executive will be presenting the 2021 budget estimates by next week,” Lawan said at the resumption of plenary Tuesday morning.
Lawan said the senate will provide a one-month window for budget defense by ministries, departments, and agencies.
“Like last year, the month of October 2020 will be dedicated to this exercise. Subsequent months of November and December will be dedicated to the internal processing of the Budget by NASS.
“The various MDAs are therefore advised to ensure that they avail themselves the opportunity of the Budget defense window to appear with all the relevant and necessary information to defend their Budget Estimates,” he said.
The federal government had proposed N12.66 trillion as aggregate expenditure for the 2021 fiscal year, according to the 2021- 2023 MTEF/FSP, forwarded to the Senate by the Buhari in July.
The proposal targets N481.41 billion as statutory transfers, N5.75 trillion as recurrent expenditure, N3.33 trillion for capital expenditure, and N3.12 trillion for debt servicing.
The proposed budget will be on a deficit of N5.16 trillion and will be partly financed by a total loan package of N4.28 trillion.