President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday gave a directive for the provision of rail infrastructure at all the ports in the country to boost socio-economic activities nationwide.
Buhari announced this when he declared open the International Association of Ports and Harbour’s Africa Regional Conference in Abuja.
The President expressed the Federal Government’s commitment to rebuilding infrastructure that would complement the means of transportation from the ports to the hinterland.
“We understand that this inter-connectivity will improve the country’s economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“So for starters, I have directed that every port must have the complement of rail infrastructure.
“Our projection is that by the end of year 2021, we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
“The same level of serious attention is being given to the improvement of road infrastructure.’’
The President revealed that already his administration had embarked on the construction of 25 major highways and 44 roads across the six geo political zones of the country.
He said: “Furthermore, we have stimulated activities on our inland waterways.
Major inland river channels are being dredged with adequate channel markings for ease of navigation through the Eastern and Northern parts of the country.
“That is the best way to go if we plan to remain competitive in the maritime industry.’’
He, therefore, implored the participants to see themselves as people opportune to stand in positions of responsibility on behalf of Africa, and urged them to at the end of their deliberations to come up with resolutions that would benefit the entire continent.
“I say this because the maritime sector where all of you are fortunate to be active stakeholders is central to the facilitation of trade and the total integration of African economies,’’ he added.
In his remarks, the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said the theme of the conference, “African Ports and Hinterland Connectivity,” was in line with the commitment of the Buhari administration’s commitment to optimising the comparative advantage the Nigeria’s maritime endowments conferred on other parts of the world.
He disclosed that the federal government planned to develop a multi model system of transportation in all its ports across the country.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman expressed the hope that the theme for the conference would enable delegates to examine the African ports sector with a view to providing solutions to challenges facing them.
She said that all African Ports, Port Operators and Corridor Management Organisations and hinterland countries, as well as IAPH Member Organisations were invited to attend the conference and to take advantage of the learning and networking opportunities available.
According to her, the participants at the meeting, which is the first ever IAPH Africa Regional Conference, will work closely to build the capacity and competitiveness in Africa’s hinterland connectivity.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that goodwill messages from the International Maritime Organization as well as other regional and global bodies in the maritime industry were also delivered at the event.