The Federal Government will stop funding old narrow gauge rail lines across the country, says Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s Minister of Transport.
Mr. Amaechi stated this while defending the ministry’s 2018 budget before the Joint House of Representatives Committees on Land Transport, Maritime Safety and Administration, Ports, Harbour and Water-Ways and Aviation on Thursday in Abuja.
He said the narrow gauge railway lines have been concessioned to General Electric (GE) who would invest over $2.7 billion into the system that would traverse the entire country.
“We are not funding the narrow gauge because we are doing a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement where GE is expected to fund it with $ 2.7 billion and manage it for a certain number of years.
“If they bring the money, there is no need for the Federal Government to put its money in the project because we are expected to sign the agreement in America in the next couple of weeks.
“First, they will start partial rehabilitation and put coaches on the narrow gauge so that Nigerians can begin to use the narrow gauge,’’ he said.
Mr. Amaechi said the government had proposed in the budget proposal for 2018, to complete the ongoing Itakpe –Ajaokuta-Warri-Aladja Railway Project which commenced 32 years ago.
He said the government also proposed for the counterpart funding that would be required as its contribution for the financing of Ibadan-Kano rail project and the Nigerian Coastal line project, from Lagos to Calabar.
According to the transport boss, the ministry sought and got President’s approval to source financiers for various rail projects for development such as the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya to Maradi in Niger Republic.
Other projects according to him are the new standard gauge rail from Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri passing through Enugu, Lafia, Makurdi, and Gombe with branches to Owerri, Onitsha, Awka, Abakaliki, Yola, Jalingo and Damaturu.
“There is the extension of Itakpe Aladja (Warri) to Abuja and Warri Port; development of railway industrial park in Port Harcourt and proposal for railway connection to Bonny Island Deep Sea Port from Port Harcourt,’’ he said.
Mr. Amaechi also disclosed that N215.13 billion was proposed as the 2018 capital budget estimate for the ministry out of which N182.21 billion was proposed for land transport sub-sector and N202.81billion for the Marine sub-sector.
He said that N508.8 million was proposed for overhead while the N30.62 billion was proposed for capital expenditure in the Aviation sector.
According to him, the emphasis will focus on sustaining the infrastructural renewal at the airports by driving the remodelling projects to a logical conclusion.
“It will also focus on the upgrade and provision of necessary air navigational equipment and that of weather forecast with special attention on safety and security infrastructure,’’ he said.
However, the committee chairmen unanimously asked the ministry to make available to them the breakdown of the budget estimate to enable them know what was proposed and for what projects.
Mr. Mohammed Bago, the Chairman, Committee on Maritime Safety and Administration, said it was necessary for the members to have the record for effective oversight