Paucity of funds may delay the take off of the federal government rail project recently approved for the Eastern corridor, which is expected to gulp an estimated 16 billion U.S. Dollars.
Government said it is however considering the option of using the public, private partnerships arrangement for some of the sections of the rail project to reduce cost
This is coming against the background of recent release of N72b federal government counterpart findings for the Lagos / Ibadan rail project.
The rail project is designed to run through Port Harcourt to Maiduguri cutting across Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Umuahia, to Abakiliki, and to Awka, Makurdi, Lafia down to Bauchi, Gombe, Yola, Maiduguri and Damaturu, in Yobe state.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi while speaking with State House Correspondent, Thursday after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa, said although approvals have been given for the project, funding has remained a major hindrance to the commencement to the project.
” Approvals have been given, but we have to look for the money, the money is just not there. It is not easy, it is a total of about $16 billon and you don’t pluck $16 billion from the sky”
Business Day gathered that government has also placed orders for ten locomotives for Kaduna/Abuja, narrow gauge rail project including another seven for the Itakpe/Warri, expected to be ready for take off, next year by June.
The completion of the rail project is expected to greatly remove pressure from Nigerian roads as heavy loads transported by articulated vehicles will be diverted to rails
Ameachi blamed “unexpected hitch” which he said delayed government plans to commence “trucking cargo from Apapa seaport to Ebute Meta and take away the challenges we are having with that Apapa bridge and the bad road,”
He however expressed the hope that ” this will happen before December.”
“Don’t forget that the President sleeps and wakes up thinking about railway and if his BP will not rise, I must see him and tell him how far we have progressed. Once he hears that progress is being made he feels a bit happy”
“He is also pleased with what we have done in terms of the narrow gauge. Between now and December we should ensure efficiency in the narrow gauge. We are bringing in more locomotives, we are bringing in more coaches and wagons”
“The PPP arrangement is the first line of action, we will try and see if we can work on PPP particularly as it relates to the seaport. Don’t forget that two deep seaports have been approved; Bonny seaport and the Warri seaport. The Port Harcourt Railway Industrial Park will, we should also be able to implement that through PPP. l hope we can but l doubt if it will be easy to get railway as PPP because it is quite expensive.”
“I also needed to brief him about the current activities going on in the Lagos/Ibadan axis and what we intend to do to complete the Lagos/Kano railway”
The Minister who disclosed that the proposed dredging work of the Calabar port has not been neglected, added that “NPA is on it. They have advertised because they prefer to do it in a PPP arrangement basically to see how we can dredge the Calabar port”
Tony Ailemen, Abuja