The federal government of Nigeria has said work will soon commenced on the on the $11.1 billion Lagos-Calabar and Port Harcourt Maiduguri railways.
The Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed this last week in an interview The Guardian.
The Minister however blamed delay in completing some major projects, including railways across the country on paucity of funds, saying the Chinese have stopped funding Nigerian government projects, leading to shopping for loans in Europe to complete existing jobs.
“We are stuck with lots of our projects because we cannot get money. The Chinese are no longer funding. So, we are now pursuing money in Europe. And when I look at the money they are borrowing in other countries and I compare with the one we have borrowed, the kind of comments by Nigerians will put you off,” he said.
The minister, however, noted that the Abuja-Itakpe railway, which will link the existing Itakpe-Delta rail line, is under way. He said the link rail would have been completed but for misunderstanding with a Chinese contractor. He assured that once the issues surrounding the project are resolved, work would begin on the route.
With this in place, Amaechi expressed optimism that movement and trade between Abuja and the South/South region would be seamless. He said work will soon commence on the $11.1 billion Lagos-Calabar and Port Harcourt Maiduguri railways.
The minister, who flayed critics over his alleged inability to site projects in his region, attributed their disapproval to ethnic bias.
“Mr. President has approved and awarded a contract from Lagos to Calabar. It is 90 per cent South-South and it is $11.1billion: the costliest railway in Nigeria! What else do you want me to do? Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri railway will start this year. It is likely to start by next month. “What is holding us in Lagos-Calabar is that we are trying to bring in a second contractor to assist the first one. Once we finish with that and they agree, before the end of the year, we will get the loan and they will start work. So, if it is to assess me, don’t worry about that; I am not only a Nigerian, I am a politician,” he said.
He explained, that in siting railways, government is more concerned about the economy of the country. “I will continue to say it, as a person who comes from the South-South, that the first rail line that makes money for the country is Lagos-Kano. Once we fix Lagos-Kano, the next most important rail line is Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. Then, the next will be Lagos-Calabar, which is South-South belt, and that is what the President is doing”, Amaechi said.
He charged state governors and local council authorities to take up the responsibilities of land transportation, as enshrined in the constitution. “The most important part of transportation island transportation and the Constitution puts it in the hands of state governors. Our job is to make policies for land transportation while governors implement.”
According to the minister, the delay in the completion of the Abuja inter-city rail connection, which was commissioned before the last election, was a Federal Capital Territory project, stressing that it was not in the hands of the Federal Ministry of Transport.
“The issue, here, is that the FCT government prefers to complete and commission its rail projects. What the FCT does is to complete the project before they start looking for money to buy rolling stock. The problem is that they don’t have the money to buy rolling stock. “They don’t have the coaches, the locomotives to start running. They have to buy, and I heard it has arrived. So, they will soon start functioning. But in our own case, we are envisaging that in two years, we should be able to finish Kaduna-Kano and Port Harcourt Maiduguri railways. “We are looking for loan. Once we get the loan, we will place order for locomotives.” He said