Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo on Saturday laid the foundation for the construction of Wagon Assembly Plant in Kajola, Ogun State, the largest private investment by the China Civil Engineering Corporation (CCECC) in sub-Saharan Africa.
The assembly plant have the capacity to create 5000 direct and indirect jobs and boost export and import within and outside Nigeria.
Speaking at the ceremony, Prof. Osinbanjo urged host communities where rail projects are located to cooperate with contractors for the speedy completion of the project.
The Vice President also noted that President Muhammadu Buhari asked him to charge CCECC to commence the assemblage of locomotives and coaches.
He said: “I have a message also from the President and this is to CCECC which is that we expect that you move on very quickly to the next phase of this project which is the assembly and construction of coaches and locomotives.
“This for us will be a significant breakthrough and we will be looking forward to hearing from you as quickly as possible when this will come into operation.”.
Speaking on the essence of the factory, Osinbajo said: “The plant which is a private investment to be undertaken by Messers CCECC, is central in the production of rolling stock needed for the railway modernization programme being implemented by this administration.
“This ceremony is not just another event, it is a historic turning point , For us, the railway is not only an alternative and comfortable mode of travel, it holds the master key to transforming commerce in Nigeria and across the continent.
“By linking our ports to rail lines and now, building the rolling stock locally, import and export business within, into and out of Africa’s largest market will never be the same.
“When completed, it is expected that the plant would produce some parts of the wagons for the Lagos – Ibadan and Abuja – Kaduna rail lines, but also for the central rail lines and to satisfy the needs of other rail operators within the West- African sub-region.”
Speaking further on the importance of the factory, he said: “The citing of the plant here in Nigeria and the commitment to hiring Nigerians and Nigerian businesses affirms the Presidents directives in Executive Order 5 on prioritizing Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in the innovation, production and procurement of Engineering projects and services.
“The plant would offer an important platform for engineers, technicians, artisans and other professionals to gain the specialized skills required for the production and maintenance of rolling stock.
“This will invariably conduce to spin-off businesses in the region of operation and across the country wherever rail networks are in existence. The plant is expected to generate about five thousand (5,000) direct and indirect jobs”
While canvassing for the support of host communities, Prof. Osinbanjo said: “It is imperative that our host communities continue to support government efforts by effectively cooperating with the contractors in safeguarding and protecting these lasting investments so that we can ensure that all intended objectives and mutual benefits are attained.”
The VP also commended the Minister of Transportation for the hardwork demonstrated since the commencement of the railway re-modernization project.
Also speaking, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi said the sustainability of the railway modernization projects depends on the country’s ability to develop local capacity to construct, maintain and manage new railway system.
He said: “It is on this note that we feel that this project is germane to the railway development in Nigeria and that Messrs. CCECC should be given every reasonable support to actualize this investment.”
Amaechi also explained that the location of the factory holds the key to the development of the economy of the nation from the commercial city of Lagos to the commercial hub of Northern Nigeria, Kano.
He also said that it will also serve any railway service in the West-African sub-region.
Emphasizing the economic gains of the project, the Minister said: “The project when completed would be able to generate about 5,000 jobs and in the long run Nigeria would be able to manufacture rolling stock for Nigerian use and for other African countries. More so, we would be able to conserve our much needed foreign exchange which can be deployed to other areas of development”.
The factory according to the Minister for Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has the capacity to produce 500 wagons per year.
He said he is delighted in seeing the Vice President flag-off the event, which when completed, will help conserve foreign exchange as many of the components of the rail system would be manufactured locally.
”The success of our railway modernisation initiative will be hinged on the success of this plant and it would serve the west coast and the African continent,” Amaechi said.
CCECC Managing Director, Mr Michael Jiang said the China government is determined to assist Nigeria develop a world class transportation system that would be the catalyst of growth and economic prosperity.
The Vice President was joined by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregebesola and the Managing Director of CCECC and other dignitaries.