The Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said serial complaints by Nigerien traders about multiple check points against Customs, Immigration and Police in Nigeria made construction of the $1.95bn railway from Kano State to Maradi in Niger Republic inevitable.
The railway is expected to run from Kano to Dutse- Katsina through Jibia and will end at Maradi in Niger Republic.
Amaechi said this on a television programme which was monitored by our correspondent.
He argued that the new rail would help Nigeria to compete and this would expand the economy.
Justifying the inter-country rail project, the Minister explained that, that Niger Republic is a landlocked country and has to rely on entrepot trade which means it has to export and import through intermediary countries.
According to him, due to insecurity and poor road infrastructure as well as extortion by security agents, Niger Republic and Chad preferred exporting and importing their goods through Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo.
Amaechi added that, when the Nigerien business community were asked why they are not exporting through Nigeria, “they say o, your roads are bad. So, the railway takes care of that. They say customs is difficult, customs will impose charges that are not charged in Benin Republic.
“They say immigration does not allow them. Even when they pass all these, there are police checkpoints on the road, customs checkpoints on the road, immigration checkpoints on the road. Then communities have their own checkpoints on the road, armed robbers attack them on the road. So, they prefer to go where it is safe and cheaper to do business.
“So, all we are saying is we come to Maradi, we build offices, we build a warehouse, you put your things in the warehouse, you deal with customs at Maradi, deal with immigration at Maradi, deal with police, whatever you need to check. Once you put the goods on top of the wagon, it goes straight to Lagos. When it gets to Lagos, straight to the ship because the things you would do in Lagos, you would have done in Maradi.”
He said he had to personally travel to Niger Republic to beg the country to allow the Nigerian government to construct the rail line. “To even get to Maradi, I had to travel to Niger Republic to even beg them. They are not bringing their money. It is our money. But I’m begging them to allow me access into Maradi.
The minister said some had even accused him of serving northern interests even though his wife is Igbo.
Amaechi said: “The worst is that they will say I am serving the interest of the North. Let’s assume that is the argument you will make. The worst I can do is stop at Jibia which is the border.