The Power Of Vision And The Powering Of Kano’s Light Rail Project – By Salihu Tanko Yakasai

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One pertinent question students of leadership have always asked themselves is –who is a visionary leader. Indeed there are so many ways to define who a visionary leader is, my  favourite definition is one I encountered at a leadership training programme;  they defined it as “Creative people that take the initiative with appropriate action, who take intelligent risks that capitalize on prime conditions. This kind of leader starts small by taking measured steps towards achieving that initiative”. In the words of Ralph Lauren “A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved  he inspires the power and energy to get it done” and this dream is exactly what the government of Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje intends to achieve with the recently awarded $1.85 Billion contract for the Kano Light Rail project to a renowned Chinese Company CR18G-CRECG.

This landmark project is intended to cover a total of approximately 74 kilometers with about half of it on the surface and the remaining half built on elevated. It will also have four lines; Dawanau to Bata, Kwanar Dawaki to Bata, Janguza to Bata and Jogana to Bata. The construction has also been divided into phases beginning from the Dawanau to Bata end which has the heaviest traffic.  The very impactful project of phase 1 is expected to be completed within two years at a cost of $550Million from the $1.85Billion total cost. The trains will be run on diesel for now, with a provision for conversion to electric in the near future with guaranteed electricity stability. .

It is important to note that the Kano Light Rail is adjudged to be the cheapest when compared with that of Lagos. The Lagos light rail which is 28km in length was initially awarded at a cost of $1.2 Billion but is currently at a cost of $2.5 billion at a unit rate of 89.2 million per km and that of Kano is at a cost $555 million with a total length of 22.7km at a unit rate of 24.4 Million which is inclusive of the  coaches and locomotives.


This unprecedented project in Northern Nigeria is indeed timely, as Kano is shaping up to become a world class mega city, and with Its ever growing population, it is imperative to note that only a mass transit system will be able to transport goods and services across the length and breadth of the city. The existing infrastructure in the State has been over stretched and obviously becoming inadequate for the exploding population thereby making it necessary to explore other means of conveying people and goods daily within and outside the city. Upon completion, people living within the axis of Dawanau, in areas like Bichi, Dambatta, Dawakin Tofa and the rest can easily come into the metropolis to do their business and return home with less hassle. Agricultural produce from Kura can also be transported to the biggest grains market in West Africa, Dawanau and so on. It’ll not only be cheaper, but it cuts time and will reduce the pressure on our roads. Without any gain saying the light rail will not only be a blessing but will also make life certainly much easier, and it’s either we do it today, or do it in 30 years from now. But either way, light rail project in Kano is inevitable.

Some people might argue the merits of  Kano building this mega project at this material time and and the probability of it being a white elephant project and my response is there is no greater time than now. Only a visionary leader can think ahead and this project is a visionary one. When Sheikh Makhtoum conceived the idea of Dubai, It can be argued that Dubai didn’t need most of the massive projects he embarked upon. When Audo Bako another visionary and first governor of Kano State was constructing over 24 dams in Kano, we didn’t need it then but he saw the future where Kano will be today and decided to provide them along with other major infrastructures that he put in place. This is what visionary leaders do, they think decades into the future and dream dreams, then conceive ideas to actualize them. This is the template on which great nations were conceptualized.  Kano is indeed braving the path to not only be a functional city but a great one as well.

Another major concern of critics and skeptics alike regarding the project is the issue of funding. Many opine that Kano will be engulfed in billions of Naira debt because the 85% of the needed funds will be sourced from Chinese banks. Now let me tell you that being indebted in itself, is not a crime. In as much as it’s put to good use for collective and sustainable development. Even the greatest countries in the world are indebted. From America to United Kingdom, from China to the United Arab Emirates, all these countries thrive and owe the great infrastructure to the enterprise of borrowing. It is also worthy of mention, to state that not a single kobo of these loan will go to Governor Ganduje, the state government or any other individual for that matter. The Chinese banks will be making the payments in installments, directly to the contractor.

For the Kano Light Rail project, the repayment plan for the loan is not going to be coughed from the state’s meager revenue accrued from both the federation account and that of its IGR. The train is intended to pay the debt which is a turnkey project that will be built, managed and maintained by the Chinese Company for a stipulated period before handing it over to the state government. A reputable global company Dar Handasah is the technical consultant of the project and will have the interim report of the feasibility studies in January a comprehensive report is  due in March 2017, the report is expected to give a detailed breakdown of how much will be raised from ticket sales in all the 4 lines, but preliminary results indicate that this is realistic. This will be the major mode of repaying the loan which will commence as soon as the first line is operational in two years. Other streams of income also include advertisement revenue, we are also exploring creative ways of  naming rights for the several stations as added sources of revenue. All these were discussed during the meetings held between Governor Ganduje and the Kano delegation with the 3 Chinese banks that have expressed interest to give this loan in China last December.

For the 15% counterpart funding, the State is expected to pay in phases, for the first  phase it is required to pay 15% of the $550 Million which is about $88 Million and it’ll be spread over the construction period of 2 years and Governor Ganduje has already put aside N30 Billion for this. Also, the state government has already received a letter of intent from one of the banks in the country to offer the state funding for its 15% counterpart of the first phase to the tune of $100 Million if the state wishes to explore that avenue. Islamic bond is also another  channel the state is looking at in order to raise these funds. All in all, there are so many alternatives at the state’s disposal in order to see to the successful execution of the project and many are keying into this with a view to investing, especially given the viability of the project..

Let me reassure Kanawa that the administration of Dr Ganduje has carefully thought through this project and all its immediate and remote implications. It is something he has envisioned for a very long time even before becoming the Governor of the state, and it is one of the first projects he prioritized during the inception of his administration as such, has gone over all the details regarding the smooth execution of this project. He has also carefully studied that of Lagos and Abuja, and have learned from their errors and incorporated it into that of Kano for a smooth take off and successful completion of the project.

A lot of energy was put in making sure that this project becomes a huge merit instead of a demerit to Kano and Kanawa. It is important  to put aside our differences, political or otherwise and rally behind the Governor and optimally support its smooth take off until it’s completion. In the end this project gigantic project is for the betterment of our dear state, the North and Nigeria at large. One day we posterity shall judge Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje positively for the power of his vision in powering Kano’s light rail project.

Salihu Tanko Yakasai, Director General Media and Publicity, Kano state Government House.

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