From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
The Kano Integrity and Justice Forum (KIJF), has urged Kano state government to disregard opposition to the Kano Light Rail Project and continue with it, describing the Project as not only laudable, but also an investment designed to put Kano on the front-pew of mega cities in Africa.
The independent organization comprising of elder statesmen, academics, professionals, businessmen, Non-Governmental Organisations, captains of industry and notable figures in the private sector, gave their full support to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje administration’s determination to develop Light Rail Transit Project in Metropolitan Kano, with a view to boosting both economic and commercial activities.
KIJF also lambasted the Bashir Tofa-led group which earlier opposed the project, insisting that their position was not in the interest of Kano people and development of the state.
KIJF made the declaration in a Communiqué issued at the end of a one-day seminar which captured the views and opinion of stakeholders in both private and public organizations on the project.
The seminar was held at Bristol Palace Hotel, Farm Centre, Kano.
The Communiqué, jointly signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Prof. Abdu Salihi and Dr. Garba Shehu respectively, affirmed that Kano city is a major commercial and industrial centre in Nigeria, serving even the Sub-Saharan African region dating back to centuries.
The Communiqué pointed out that in view of the vintage position of Kano in terms of commerce and industry, there was need for the development of its transportation infrastructure to cope with increasing needs and demands of local and global commercial cum industrial activities.
According to the Communiqué, ‘’this decision is the right one considering all that has been examined in this seminar, where it was shown that Kano cannot afford to be lagging behind in these global trends taking place, whereby cities (some even lesser population and resources than Kano) are making efforts at upgrade their transport infrastructures to be in-tune with the 21st century.”
The Communiqué added that while considering the economic challenges and disadvantages before every individuals, families, and businesses, the implementation of the Light Rail project will open opportunities for the benefit of every individual nationwide. KIJF maintained that, “various cities in Nigeria, Africa and the world over, are exploring some favourable development and financing options like Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) and concession to develop their societies and build import structures that will improve the quality of life of its citizen.”
The Communiqué maintained that even though those opposing the Light Rail Project cited lower proportion of seats to standees, inflexibility of roots, disruption to traffic and business during construction, as their reasons, the benefits of the project outweigh the problems.
“The state government should explore the vast availability of using a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with some serious-minded private sector participants like Dangote Group Investments or a consortium of local financiers as the project commences and progresses, consider the idea of concession, which shall be explored in a similar way to what obtains in the telecommunication and airlines sectors,” the Communiqué suggested.
KIJF further called for, “a review of the 2012 Kano State Transport Master Plan, which should serve as a Road Map and means of guiding the city towards solving many transportation challenges now and in the future.’’
The Kano Integrity Forum also advised the state government to, “exercise extreme nationalism by ensuring that Nigerian experts who are very conversant with railway management and technical know-how are fully involved in the project implementation, to work closely with the expatriates.”
KIJF, however, lauded Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for his steadfastness, “despite the scathing criticisms on the project,” and appealed to the people in Kano to embrace and support the Light Rail Project.
KIJF also advised politicians to reason beyond political gains and join hands with Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s administration to develop Kano by supporting the Light Rail Project and other programmes designed to revive Kano economy and give the state its befitting status as a mega city.