The Federal Ministry of Transport and that of Environment have given assurance to residents along the proposed stretch of land demarcated for the construction of the rail line from Kano through Katsina to Maradi in Niger Republic of minimal environmental and social impact on their communities.
The officials of the two ministries gave the assurance at a town hall meeting organized for representatives of the various communities and different interest groups, preparatory to the commencement of the 387 kilometer rail project.
Speaking at the meeting, representative of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Charles Okwusogu explained that the rail line will traverse 28 Local Government Areas across Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states, passing through hundreds of rural communities along the route.
He noted that the rail line will start from Kano and proceed through Dambatta to Kazaure, Daura, Katsina to Jibia and terminate at Maradi State in Niger Republic.
Mr. Okwusogu said the rail line is calculated to transform the economy of the three states while further opening up the Nigerian economy to other countries in the West Africa Sub-region for enhanced trade and exports.
He said the stakeholder engagement was aimed at getting inputs from traditional and community leaders, trade unions, farmers and animal breeders associations, members of the Katsina State Executive council and the media, to fashion out ways to minimize social and environmental impact of the project on the host communities.
He said the ministry has also tasked the consultants handling the project to design a resettlement plan for residents, farmers, and pastoral communities whose houses, shops, farmlands and grazing areas will be affected by the rail project.
In his remarks, representative of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr. AbdulJalil Umaru, said the ministry has tasked the consultants handling the project to minimize its impact on agricultural land, trees, animal habitats and other components of the ecosystem.
He said the consultants will also appoint community liaison officers that will interface with officials of the two ministries and the contractors on behalf of all the communities that will host the rail line project.
Stakeholders who spoke at the meeting expressed appreciation to the federal government for embarking on the one billion dollar project which has been conceived about fifty years ago but was only designed and awarded two years ago by the Muhammad Buhari-led administration.
They also raised various concerns that border on the need for minimal displacement as well as payment of adequate compensation and resettlement of people whose residences and livelihoods will be affected by the project.
It would be recalled that the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kano-Katsina-Jibia-Maradi rail line project was performed by President Muhammadu Buhari last year, as the rail line will be connected with the Lagos-Kaduna-Kano rail which is also under construction.
Reporting by Isma’il Adamu, editing by Daniel Adejo