… Railway projects to gulp $40bn – Minister
President Muhammed Buhari has said the Federal Government, under his administration is committed to linking all major commercial cities and production centres with rail for rapid social economic development, improve the quality of life of the citizens and improving the national integration.
The President, who stated this at the Commissioning of the ten new rail coaches and two locomotives in Kaduna on Thursday, said it is not just a statement of intent but a benchmark for measuring the performance of the administration and solicited for the support of the National Assembly, development partners and relevant stakeholders to achieve this aim.
This is even as the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said about $36 billion to $40 billion is needed to complete have effective rail system in Nigeria.
According to the minister, “We will do everything possible to ensure that we complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway. We are already negotiating with contractors that will fund the project. If we are able to complete the arrangements again taking into consideration the Nigeria law, we will start many of so many rail project this year. That will include many of them.
We need between $36 billion to $40 billion. Only God knows where we are going to get it, but I like to apply what I did as Rivers State governor. When there is a project, we put on the table how much we have, we will just award the contract believing that God will do it for us. You will say that it is naive but at the end of the day we got the money to pay the constructors.”
Speaking at the event, Buhari said “Am glad that this service has become very useful for commuters and would soon become the preferred means of transport for the journey from Abuja to Kaduna.
“I reiterate government commitment to linking all major commercial and production centres by rail for rapid social economic development and improving the quality of life of the citizens and improving the national integration.
“Its not just a statement of intent but benchmark for measuring the performance of the administration, and hence, I am soliciting the support of the national assembly, development partners and relevant stakeholders to achieve this aim.”
The president restated his resolve to vigorously pursue railway development in Nigeria through the implementation of the 25 year strategic railway master plan.
He stated that government would further focus on costal rail like Lagos-Calabar with Branches to Benin, Agbor and Onitsha including Port Harcourt to. Maiduguri standard guage rail line with branches to Owerri, Akwa, Abakaliki, Yola and Damaturu.
Adding that government would also focus on Kano-Kazure , Daura, Kastina, Jibya tolink to Maradi in Niger Republic as part of regional railway inter-connectivity of the ECOWAS sub-region.
The President mentioned that other supporting project that has been approved is the procurement of more locomotives, coaches, wagons, workshops and equipment that would be used for standard guage lines.
He also noted that to encourage private sector participation in the railway development, negotiations was on for the concessioning of the narrow guage rails with a consortium General Electric.
On the commissioning of the new coaches, the minister said “I feel very elated and I thank the president for his support and I hope I don’t disappoint him and Nigerians. It gives me a new lease of life because after all we did in Rivers, one young man woke up and said we did not do anything. This gives me another opportunity to prove that you have worked for the people and that you are compelled by the circumstances of the fact that Nigerians and the president thought that we could deliver in the mandate given to the president which was transferred to me as the minister.
“I have said that we don’t have enough coaches but now we have four locomotives, 14 coaches. We now have enough to do Abuja Kaduna none stop, we have train that can stop at every station and that will increase the efficiency.”
The minister however, denied been under pressure to carry out his duties, noting that “I wish you know me very well. When I get to my bed and start reading before you know it I am asleep. The next time I will wake should be around 3am. I don’t think I am under any pressure. Once he provides the money, you will know that I have the capacity.”