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Ajokuta steel complex

Of what commercial use’ll Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line be on delivery?

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Since last week the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi said the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard gauge rail line will be ready for commercial use next year, transport analysts have been raising questions on what kind of traffic will drive the commercial use of the infrastructure.

Amaechi had dropped the hint while addressing journalists at the Agbor Railway Station 7 shortly after inspecting the facility.

Business Hilights recalls that the main reason for the 34-year-old rail line was originally to serve as a heavy duty carrier of raw materials to service Ajaokuta Steel Company (AJC), Aladja Steel Company (ASC) and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMC) Itakpe.

Now the puzzle that had been hard for Nigerians to resolve is of what commercial value will the rail facility serve when the three industries for which it was conceived are currently moribund?

Investigations show that there is nothing going on at AJC since the House of Representatives led by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara shutdown plans of the immediate former Minister of Solid minerals, Dr Kayode Fayemi to sell off the complex when experts say what is needed for its coming on stream is an amount less than $1bn.

The minister failed to the superior argument of the Speaker who queried the rationale in not spending the $1bn to complete AJC and begin production than spending well over $10bn to import iron rods to be used in constructing both second Niger Bridge and Mambila power plants.

Before now, many stakeholders have been querying the intelligence in spending huge sum on the rail line when there is nothing to ferry in terms of iron products or even human traffic because the axis; Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri has no history of huge traffic that will warrant delivering the rail without any genuine plan to revive the three iron and steel rolling mills.

However, responding from the defensive point of view on why the federal government chose to build railway for nonexistent traffic of anything, Amaechi argued that “considering the number of years it had been lying fallow without being put to any use, the facility will now serve the dual purpose of ferrying passengers across the region as well as its original purpose of conveying raw materials to feed Ajaokuta, Aladja and Itakpe”.

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