Why Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway can’t start now – Minster of Transport
By Orkeghen Aondohemba
On Wednesday 31st November, 2018 the Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu raised a matter of public importance on the floor of the senate relating to Eastern railway development involving Port Harcourt, delta, Enugu, Makurdi, Yola, and Maiduguri. The motion was speculated on the recent information that General Electric have pulled out of the agreement with Federal government to invest 2.7 billion US dollars in the narrow gauge railway infrastructure which covers eastern line Nigeria railways. It is base on this valid concern that the Nigeria senate decide to invite the Hon. Minister of Transport Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amechi to throw more light.
The railway concession project was worth around $2 billion for two lines connecting cities in the northern part of the country to others in the south.
The concession was meant to cover about 3,500 km (2,200 miles) of existing narrow-gauge lines from the nation’s commercial hub, Lagos, through to Kano in the north. It is also expected to extend from Port Harcourt in the South-south to Maiduguri, Borno State capital, in the North-east.
An interactive meeting of Joint Committee on Land Transport and Local & Foreign Depts chaired by Sen Gbenga Ashafa and co-chairman Sen. Sehu Sani to enable the Hon. Minister of Transport to explain to representatives of Nigerians through the two committee.
Addressing the committee members on the concern raised, he said, “the country does not have the necessary recourse to do railways in every village, is not possible”. Explaining further he said, 2.7 billion US dollars is one trillion Nair. For the railway government want to construct from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri is about 12 billion dollars which is one year budget of Nigeria. Therefore, everything is done systematically. We can not do 4 railways at the same time.
The minister said that, President Muhammadu Buhari is conscious of the fact that Nigerians want easy movement of goods and services across the country. He added that no government can be able to do all the railways at the same time. The construction is done as money comes, the fact is that you can not build railways in a year only, but you can continue building until you cover everywhere.
The Hon. Minister of Transport empaasize that, they did told Nigerians that they are magicians, but they will construct railways. He said that, 30 billion dollars borrowing plan was approved by Federal Executive Council and was submitted to senate for approval to use for construction of railways across the country. He said that senate has not approve the borrowing plan.
According to Minister of Transport, there are three critical rail lines very critical to Nigerians namely: Lagos to Kanu, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, Abuja Warri. All this three lines terminate at sea ports, they can not move forward until they have the borrowing plan approve by the senate.
Responding to the fear raised by the joint committee over the proposed $30 billion borrowing plan, the minister said that, it when the project is completed that the money is release. The money is not going to be pay through them so no need for fear of embezzling the money. He assured the joint committee that their collateral is guarantee non of the country’s asset will be seize in the future.