The Federal Government said yesterday that it approved the extension of rail construction from Lagos-Kano-Katsina to Maradi in Niger Republic for economic and commercial benefits.
Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed said on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) live programme, Good Morning Nigeria, that the rail extension was intended for Nigeria to take economic advantage of import and export to Niger Republic, Chad and Burkina Faso which are landlocked countries.
Mohammed said contrary to the criticisms by some commentators on the rail extension project, the decision was taken in the economic interest of the country.
His words: “I think there have been a lot of disinformation and total lack of information over the linking of Lagos, Kano, Katsina railway to Maradi.
“The wisdom behind it is that Niger, Chad, Burkina Fasso are all landlocked, meaning that they do not have access to sea.
“What this means is that most of their imports and exports have to go through neighbouring countries’ sea ports like Cotonou in Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.
“Because we do not have a road infrastructure that will encourage Niger Republic to use our seaports, we believe that we will be able to take over their imports and exports with the rail linkage.
“The simple reason, therefore, is to strengthen the economy of Nigeria.”
Continuing, Mohammed said: “For now, Niger Republic use the seaports of Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana and the exporters go through the stress, challenges and time of being on the road from Cotonou, Lome or Accra to their country.
“But when you look at the distance by rail, by the time we link them from Katsina to Maradi, it will be easier for us to take over the business.
“There is nothing like territorial expansion; it is purely economic. We are taking advantage of proximity and efficiency of rail system.”
He admonished critics of government policies and decisions to always seek clarifications before going to town to misinform the public.
Mohammed equally said that government will keep engaging in more conversation to enlighten the public on its policies, programmes and decisions.