Elder Statesman and former Transport Minister, Admiral Festus Porbeni , said it took the Abdulsalam Abubakar administrations less than nine months to construct the Itakpe/Warri Rail. Admiral Porbeni who spoke exclusively with Shipping World in Abuja said plans had reached an advanced stage to construct an express rail line between Lagos and Abuja but for the short tenure of the regime. The former Transport Minister while commending the Buhari administration for embarking on a massive rail connectivity across the the country explained that it would have taken just two and hours for a trip between Lagos and Abuja had the project been executed. He said “a Canadian firm had been approached before we left office.
The idea was for us to provide the right of way, while the firm was to construct the rail line on a build , operate and transfer basis. He said: “We didn’t have so much time at our disposal. We didn’t want to hang on to a prolonged transition time table, we were under pressure from the international community to just do the needful and handover immediately. Even though we had a limited time frame to transit from military to civilian administration, we were very conscious of the importance of the rail , especially in the transportation of goods and services. Our plan was to encourage the evacuation of petroleum products by rail to every part of the country but there was a serious resistance on the part of trailer drivers and owners”, he said.
According to the former Transport Minister, the Rail Projects conceived but could not be executed included the Coastal Rail Project linking Port Harcourt ,Onne, Enugu and Calabar . He explained that the original idea of the Itakpe Warri Rail Project was to help in the evacuation of iron ore from Warri to Ajaokuta. Admiral Porbeni commended the incumbent Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, for his commitment to the rail sector.