Posted on October 9, 2023
The three vital infrastructural projects stand tall among others in the country. They have also redefined Nigeria’s landscape because of their impact on land space and the environment.
The Abuja-Kaduna Railway, Lagos-Ibadan Railway and the Lekki Port are three major projects that have dramatically altered the scope of transportation, cargo handling and shipment in Nigeria and lifted its image above the nation’s peers on the continent of Africa.
They are modern game-changing technologies that have added real value to the country’s existing projects in those two sectors-rail and port development.
While the Abuja-Kaduna Railway, executed by CCECC Nigeria Limited, stands as Nigeria’s first modern railway, marking the continent’s inaugural instance of “Made in China” and “Chinese standards” in modern rail infrastructure, the Lekki Port, which sits strategically in Lagos and is automatically Nigeria’s first deep sea port developed by Chinese Harbour Engineering Company, CHEC.
Spanning a total length of 186.5 kilometres, the Abuja-Kaduna Railway adheres to Chinese railway technology standards, with a designed maximum speed of 150 kilometres per hour and has added a vital transport artery from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to the significant industrial city of Kaduna in the north.
Apart from improving the investment climate in the country, the railway project has also facilitated trade, the movement of people and goods between the two major cities, propelling economic development along the route and within the urban areas. Particularly noteworthy, is the vital role it is playing in stimulating commercial development around passenger stations, which dot the route from Abuja to Kaduna and vice versa.
The implementation and operation of the Abuja-Kaduna Railway have triggered a profound impact on Nigeria’s economy. Over its seven years of operation so far, it has safely transported nearly 6.57 million passengers, provided a safe, comfortable, efficient, and punctual mode of travel for residents and visitors alike. It has significantly integrated Kaduna into the development sphere of the capital region, driving economic growth along the railway corridor, generating substantial direct and indirect employment opportunities, and laying a solid foundation for the sustained adoption of Chinese standards.
The Chinese conglomerate, CCECC, which built the rail corridor, has not only provided the infrastructure but has also transferred expertise and nurtured a considerable pool of railway professionals to guarantee Nigeria’s railway modernization and sustainable development through ample talent resources.
Similarly, the Lagos-Ibadan Railway, undertaken by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Nigeria Limited, CCECC, stands as the first modern double-track standard-gauge railway in West Africa.
That rail project currently serves as a crucial component of the ECOWAS’s “Interconnectivity” railway network and represents the second phase of Nigeria’s railway modernization project. As the flagship project of Sino-Nigerian practical cooperation, the Lagos-Ibadan Railway adheres to Chinese railway standards and achieved the fastest construction pace by Chinese enterprises in West Africa.
It will be recalled that in June 2021, the Lagos-Ibadan Railway, connecting Nigeria’s economic hub, Lagos, with the industrial centre of the southwest, Ibadan, officially commenced commercial operations. It has already transported over 1.33 million passengers.
Recently, the railway introduced dedicated freight services, establishing a vital link between the port and rail, thus expediting the flow of import and export goods, alleviating port congestion, and contributing significantly to the growth of Nigeria’s largest port, the Lagos Apapa Port. It also plays a key role in promoting the development of export-oriented economies in the surrounding areas.
It is also on record that throughout the project’s construction and operational phases, a strong commitment to local engagement has resulted in the direct creation of a minimum of 5,000 employment opportunities within the local community each year and indirectly supporting the employment of at least 20,000 individuals.
The Lagos-Ibadan Railway project has also made substantial efforts in talent development, offering training in various roles related to engineering construction and railway operations, facilitating the transfer of professional expertise, and CCECC has organized hundreds of training sessions to contribute to the cultivation of talent for Nigeria’s railway modernization.
The Lekki Port, on the other hand, which was completed in October 2022, by CHEC under the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT), model, brings a new dimension to port operations in Nigeria and opens a new vista in shipping into and outside Nigeria.
Under the agreement reached with Nigeria, the concession period is 45 years (three years’ construction included), with CHEC, Tolaram, the Lagos Government, and the Nigerian Ports Authority as the shareholders of the Lekki Port.
The Lekki Freeport Terminal is a joint venture enterprise owned by CHEC and CMA-CGM and is the container operator for the Port.
Phase 1 of the multipurpose Port, with an overall investment of $1.044 billion, has developed two container berths, 680 metres quay, and 16.5 metres deep channel; it is also equipped with 7 ship-to-shore cranes and 21 RTG cranes; the port yard covers 20 hectares, can accommodate 55,000 TEU. The port will be sufficient to handle 18,000 TEU vessels and has a total capacity of 1.2 million TEUs annually. Lekki Port began the commercial operation in April 2023.
The commencement of operations at the Lekki Port is already addressing the challenges that slowed down operations at the main Lagos ports for a long time, among them, traffic congestion, low draught level, poor cargo distribution capability, and undeveloped road network. As a result of these challenges, Nigerian foreign trade has been significantly impeded, causing the country to lose its transhipment hub status to other West African countries in the past decades.
There is renewed hope that the Lekki Port will be the game-changer. Situated in the Lagos Free Zone, it is ideally positioned to service the gateway for Nigeria and the surrounding West African region; equipped with world-class machines and remains the first automated port in Nigeria that will allow rapid customs clearance and significantly reduce the time of cargo handling.
Lekki Port will promote the take-off of Nigeria’s economy and the prosperity of foreign trade, flourish many related industries, and create massive jobs. It is estimated that the overall economic benefit will reach $361 billion over the next 45 years with 170,000 direct and indirect jobs created for Nigerians.
The critical thinking that birthed these gigantic and futuristic projects deserves a deafening applause but what remains to be seen is the sincerity of the managers and operators of the infrastructural projects so as to bring about the realization of the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of the vital schemes.