Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says the rail line the federal government plans to construct to the border of Niger Republic will strengthen Nigeria’s economy.
Speaking on Good Morning Nigeria, a Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) programme, on Friday, Mohammed said there has been a lot of disinformation about the project.
The project has generated controversy. But Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, explained that the government would only construct the rail line to a designated border point and not into the foreign country.
Mohammed said the government’s reason for the project “is purely economic”. “I think there has been a lot of disinformation and total lack of information over the rail linking of Lagos, Kano, Katsina railway to Maradi,” NAN quoted him as saying.
“The wisdom behind it is that Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso 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’ seaports 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.
“For now, Niger Republic uses seaport of Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana and the exporters go through the stress, challenges and time of being on the road from Cotonu, Lome or Accra to their country.
“But 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 the proximity and efficiency of the rail system.”