The Federal Government says it will champion the extension of rail lines from land-locked countries to coastal states of Benin, Togo, Ghana and other African countries.
The Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, in a statement on Tuesday, said the move was part of efforts to sufficiently benefit from the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Saraki stated this at a Stakeholders Engagement/Sensitisation Workshop on: “Implementation Plan of African Continental Free Trade Area for the transportation sector in Nigeria”.
The minister, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Magdalene Ajani, said the linkage would facilitate movement of cargoes, enhance import and export of goods to promote trade and create employment opportunities.
Saraki said proper galvanisation of the transportation sector through ensuring connectivity, safety, regulation of the road subsector, port reforms (electronic call-up), deployment of the Deep Blue Project was pivotal for the realisation of AfCFTA.
According to her, these will leverage the transportation sector and country to immensely benefit from AfCFTA.
She said: ”Charting out strategies to implement the low hanging fruits that will propel the sector to achieve the various deliverables in the AfCFTA implementation plan is key”.
In her remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Ajani said there was the need for stakeholders to vigorously pursue the buy-in for AfCFTA.
Ajani explained that the ministry was saddled with the responsibility of providing seamless transportation system that would facilitate both domestic and regional trade.
According to her, this will help diversify the economy and increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation.
She described the gesture by the Federal Government as a milestone in the quest for regional development and integration of Africa.
She said the major objective of the agreement was to boost intra – African trade through the elimination of tariffs and free movement of goods and services within member states.
According to Ajani, AfCFTA holds the promise of lifting millions out of poverty and improving the wellbeing of all through enhanced market access opportunities.
The permanent secretary said “the current transport sector and AfCTA are like Siamese twins that cannot do without another.”
She pointed out that there were, however, challenges that must be addressed for the sector to become transportation hub of Africa.
On her part, the Secretary, National Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN), Winnifred Ofili, decried low Nigeria’s share of trade which had remained low at three per cent.
According to Ofili, AfCFTA agreement aims to create a single market for goods and services in order to deepen the economic integration of Africa.
Also, the Executive Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu, recognised and appreciated the preparedness for the trade agreement by the Transportation Ministry.
Anatogu said the ministry already had a master plan and was among the first to set up a Technical Working Group for the AfCFTA.
He, however, pointed out that the ministry needed to prioritise aspects of its interventions to make it impactful.
“Our role in (AfCFTA National Action Committee) is to provide general expertise, project management expertise, monitoring and evaluation and others.
”And to compete favourably, there has to be infrastructure and government policies to realise the potential of AfCFTA,” Anatogu added.