A Chinese contractor has agreed to pay for Nigeria’s first transportation university, which it began building on Monday in the town of Daura, near the Niger border.
When completed in 18 months’ time, the university will produce managers and technicians for Nigeria’s rapidly growing rail and road networks.
China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) said it would cover the $50m cost of the scheme as part of its corporate social responsibility. The gesture also has political benefits for CCECC, as Daura is the birthplace of Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari yesterday attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the scheme, which will be built on a 413ha site. According to newspaper Pulse, he said the university was the first of its kind in Africa, and would bring rapid development to Nigeria’s transport sector and generate employment opportunities for Nigerians.
Buhari commented: "When established, the university will, among other things, pave [the] way for the domestication of railway engineering and general transportation sciences in Nigeria, thereby bridging the technology and skill gap in the railway and ultimately transportation sector."
The president also praised CCECC for its generosity and the Federal Ministry of Transportation for suggesting the scheme.
The project is also intended to deepen China’s relationship with Africa’s largest economy. Rotimi Amaechi, the country’s transport minister, told the Xinhua news agency that the project would "go a long way to enhance the existing bilateral relationship between China and Nigeria, as well as encourage patronage of local content".
He said: "We have talked about the transfer of technology. We have talked about the issue of maintenance… Being able to construct our own railways and knowledge transfer. That would be great."
Xinhua also noted that CCECC is training some 150 Nigerian students in railway engineering in China, as well as building a railway rolling stock assembly plant in Kajola, a town in the southwestern state of Ogun.
Jiang Yigao, the managing director of CCECC’s Nigerian subsidiary, told Xinhua that the aim of the university was to establish a domestic railway industry. He said: "During the construction of Nigeria’s railway projects, we thought it was very important to train people, to transfer technology and to develop the industry of railway. This transportation university can reach this target. The railway is in huge demand in Nigeria, especially for economic development."
Image: President Buhari, centre, at the groundbreaking ceremony on 2 December (Bayo Omoboriowo/Official Twitter account of Muhammadu Buhari)