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Budget Defence: Lack of Funds Mars Linking Major Cities by Rail- Amaechi

Oru Leonard

The Federal Government has blamed the inability to secure the required capital to link the major cities across the country by rail as the main reason why construction work has not commenced, saying that its doors are    open to all willing investors that can muster the capital required for the projects.

The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi disclosed this yesterday during the 2019 Budget Defence before the Senate Committee on Land Transport at the National Assembly, Abuja.

According to the Minister, these include: The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Rail line which was approved for construction by the Administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Kano-Katsina-Jibiya to Maradi in Niger Republic, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri passing through Enugu, Lafia, Makurdi, Gombe, Owerri, Onitsha, Awka, Abakaliki, Yola, Jalingo and Damaturu.

Similarly, others suffering the same fate are: Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt and the Deep Seaport in Bonny with railway connections.

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Furthermore, the Minister disclosed that under the Railway Modernization Programme, the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail line has reached 65.5% completion, noting  that the rail tracks have been laid up to Abeokuta from Lagos and hopefully by end of May 2019 it will get to Ibadan.

Also, he informed that the construction of Train Stations along the corridor of the Rail lines and other Ancillaries are ongoing and progressing appreciably, and will be commissioned this year by Mr. President all things being equal.

He added that the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge rail line is expected to bring about economic growth occasioned by increased commercial activities, social interaction, generate employment and facilitate seamless evacuation and distribution of goods and services with connection to Lagos Ports and other facilities, such as the Inland Dry Ports on its corridor.

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As regards the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Standard Gauge Rail Line, the Minister informed that partial passenger services has commenced as the tracks are fully laid while the construction of 12 stations and the signalling and telecommunication works are progressing.

On the Narrow Gauge Line, the Minister stated that the process for its concession is also ongoing, noting that the Ministry, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) are working on the best concession model for the NRC in their dealing with the preferred Concessionaire – Transnet International Holdings of South Africa who took over the lead role from General Electric (GE) after GE pulled out of the concession transaction due mainly to the closure of their Transport business unit.

Also, the Ministry has reactivated the ECOWAS Inter-State Road Transit Scheme to deepen regional integration and economic growth in the Sub-region. According to him, “the idea is to promote free flow of trade among member states free of duties, taxes and restrictions while in transit.”

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Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa lauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for being the only one that has invested so much on transportation especially in the rail sector.

Furthermore, Senator Ashafa noted that his Committee was committed to the present administration’s change agenda which has seen to the transformation of the Nigerian rail lines leading to the completion of the Abuja – Kaduna, Itakpe–Ajaokuta-Warri with Lagos – Ibadan nearing completion while plans have reached advanced stage to connect the whole country by rail.

While calling on the Ministry to ensure value for money spent on the rail projects, he charged the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to expedite action on delivering the projects in good time.

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