- Commercial Operations Begin on Lagos-Ibadan Railway in September –NRC
The transportation of passengers, goods and services on a commercial basis will commence on the Lagos-Ibadan railway between September and October this year, the Nigeria Railway Corporation has said.
It was also gathered from the NRC that commercial services will start on the Itakpe-Warri rail line in August this year, while the movement of trains from Iju in Lagos State to Ibadan in Oyo State had commenced.
The Managing Director, NRC, Fidet Okhiria, who spoke to reporters in Abuja, noted that while some coaches for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line were already the ground, about 10 more were being expected in a couple of months.
He said, “Right now, you can ride on the train from Iju in Lagos to Ibadan in Oyo State. And we are hoping that in the next three to four months the coaches we ordered will come in. Two coaches have already come in but we don’t want to start with the big coaches because the price will be too much.
“So, we are expecting the normal coaches to come in and nothing stops us from operating them. We have two that have already come in but the Chinese called me recently that we may go for inspection for the next set of coaches soon because we must go there to check their performance before they (Chinese) ship them.”
On the number of coaches being expected, he replied, “We are expecting a set of 10 at first. It is about sixty coaches.”
Okhiria also spoke about moves by the NRC to commence the sales of tickets online, as he noted that over 112 firms submitted bids for the initiative.
He said, “When we advertised this, it took long because over 112 companies submitted bids and so we had to be pruning them until we got about three that came first, second and third. And that is the stage we are right now.
“So we have to make sure that due diligence is followed because once we start it, we will have to extend it to other areas and not just on the Abuja-Kaduna route.”
He said the NRC wanted a situation where the ticketing process would be genuine and where there would be adequate security in the exercise.
On the Itakpe-Warri route, the NRC boss said, “We are operating the Itakpe-Warri line and I think we should go commercial in August. We have not gone commercial because of the place to sell tickets. We are preparing smaller stations where people can buy tickets because we don’t want to sell tickets on the train to avoid ticket racketeering.”
When asked whether the government would connect the rail line from Itakpe in Kogi State to Abuja, Okhiria noted that there had been approval for it.
“There is an approval for a private company to do Warri to the ports and from Itakpe to Abuja. Also, there is another approval for us to source for funds to do Port Harcourt to Warri, Benin and Agbor. All these tracks cannot be lower than standard gauge. There is nothing like narrow gauge again because it is obsolete,” he said.
France, Nigeria to Build New Partnership
France is currently aiming at building a new partnership with Nigeria, with the dispatching of its Minister in charge of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester, to Nigeria.
Riester, who was expected at the time of filing this report on Monday, is scheduled to visit Nigeria from 12-14 April, 2021.
A statement from the French Embassy in Nigeria said: “Franck Riester is visiting Nigeria from 12 to 14 April, a visit that follows up on the priorities set by French President Emmanuel Macron during his official visit to Nigeria in July 2018 and his desire to build a new partnership between Africa and France.
“As the largest economy in Africa and the economic engine of West Africa, Nigeria is indeed a major partner for France, the first in sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral trade amounting to a total of 4.5 billion USD in 2019 (2.3 billion USD in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic).”
It disclosed that the minister will have several official meetings in Abuja and Lagos, in order to underline the importance of the bilateral economic relationship and to prepare the summit on the financing of African economies in Paris on 18 May.
It revealed that the objective of the mission is also to further strengthen the links between the French and Nigerian private sectors, and “in this regard, the minister will have in-depth discussions with the main Nigerian economic actors to strengthen bilateral cooperation and investments, both in Nigeria and in France, particularly in the logistics sector”.
It said while in the country, the minister would meet with young Nigerian entrepreneurs in the cultural and creative industries sector, to discuss the major role of their country in African creativity and the development of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the support of France.
It further said: “The minister will also open the ‘Choose Africa’ conference, a €3.5 billion initiative by President Emmanuel Macron dedicated to supporting the development of start-ups and SMEs in Africa to enable the continent to benefit fully from the opportunities of the digital revolution.”
COVID-19: USAID to Provide $3m Grant, Technical Assistance to Combat Food Insecurity in Nigeria
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing financial grant and technical assistance worth $3 million to combat food insecurity in Nigeria compounded by COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement by the agency on Monday said: “On April 12, 2021, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nigeria launched a COVID-19 Food Security Challenge that will provide $3 million in grant funding and technical assistance to youth-led and mid-stage companies working in food value chains in Nigeria.”
The statement lamented that Nigeria is experiencing food insecurity compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic and its effects on the food value chain in the country.
It stated that the pandemic has disrupted the already fragile agricultural value chains, especially smallholder farmers’ ability to produce, process and distribute food, which has disrupted agricultural productivity and markets, and negatively impacted livelihoods, especially among vulnerable households, women and youth.
The USAID Mission Director, Anne Patterson, said: “We are launching the COVID-19 Food Security Challenge to help innovative Nigerians alleviate food insecurity.
“This assistance encourages private sector-led solutions to boost food production, processing and create market linkage along the agriculture value chain in a sustainable way across Nigeria.”
The statement revealed that in launching the challenge, USAID seeks commercially viable youth-led and mid-stage companies already working in food production, processing, and distribution, noting that successful applicants will present ideas that demonstrably help farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain increase, agricultural productivity and food security within the next six months.
According to the statement, the challenge will award 15 to 25 youth-led companies up to $75,000 each and award 10 to 15 mid-stage companies up to $150,000 each.
Winners will receive funding and technical assistance to rapidly expand their activities to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s food value chain and improve the resilience of vulnerable households to the negative impacts of the pandemic.
FG Plans to Deliver Solar Energy to 25M Nigerians
The Nigerian federal government has commenced its plan to deliver electricity through solar energy to Nigerians whose communities are off the national power grid.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who spoke during an event to mark the programme in Jangefe, Roni Local Government Area of Jigawa State, restated the determination of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to give more Nigerians access to cheap and environmentally friendly renewable power.
Osinbajo said the Solar Power Naija programme would continue across the six geopolitical zones in six states, namely, Edo, Lagos, Adamawa, Anambra, Kebbi and Plateau, in the first phase, and then move to the entire 36 states and the nation’s capital, thus, covering 25 million Nigerians at completion.
Jangefe community got 1,000 solar home system connections for its about 5,000 population, as part of a 100,000 scheme, with a local solar power company implementing aspects of the scheme.
According to Osinbajo, the president had emphasised that Nigeria could no longer rely solely on the grid if government is to electrify the whole country, which meant that an effective strategy had to be developed for decentralising power supply.
The Solar Power Naija programme, which is designed by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), is an ambitious initiative that aims to create five million connections through a N140 billion financing programme that will support private developers to provide power for five million households, which means providing electricity for up to 25 million Nigerians.
The vice president disclosed that the programme was a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement supported by concessionary lending via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks. He emphasised that structures had been put in place to make the cost of the connections affordable for the target communities.
In addition to the concessionary lending rates, Osinbajo explained that the government had provided subsidies and rebates for private developers to the tune of over $200 million under the REA and World Bank Nigeria electrification programme.
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