Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, thursday defended the inclusion of the eastern corridor rail line in the 2016/2018 external borrowing (ROLLING) plan of the federal government rail project before the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts.
Amaechi, while briefing the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Sen. Shehu Sani, at the National Assembly, Abuja, noted that the present administration was only implementing contracts awarded by past Presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, for railway modernisation in the country.
According to him, â€œPrior to the resolution of the Senate, this administration had taken steps to incorporate the eastern corridor and indeed the North-east corridor that was not provided for by the previous administration in 2006 and 2014 rail projects development.â€
He explained that the situation necessitated the sourcing of financial option to which the Federal Ministry of Finance has been directed by the president to take appropriate action.
The minister said: â€œThe coastal rail line already has its route alignment passing through Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State, both of which are in the South-east geopolitical zone.
â€œThese projects for which the approval of the National Assembly of $5,214,914,368.33 co-financed by China Exim bank were neither conceived nor approved by President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s administration, rather, this administration pursued the projects vigorously in view of their importance to the development of the socio-economic lives of the citizenry.
Amaechi stated that it was in realisation of this, â€œthe administration, in order to meet rail transport needs across all the geopolitical zones of the country, is seeking the approval of $5.8 billion from the Senate for the accommodation of the projects in the South-east and the initiation of same in the North-east geopolitical zones of the country.
â€œPort Harcourt-Maiduguri anchored from Aba and Aba-Umuahia-Enugu (with a branch line to Give and Damaturu-Maiduguri rail line. Completion of Itakpe-Warri including connections to Warrior Port and Refinery with extensions from Itakpe to Abuja. Bobby Deep Sea Port and Port Harcourt Industrial Park Projects, branch line to Ado Emotional on Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line, Kano-Kazuare-Daura-Katsina-Jibiya to link Maradi in Niger Republic, branch line to Akure, Ondo State, on the Nigerian coastal rail line (Lagos to Calabar), Aba-Owerri-Nnewi-Onistha rail line to link the coastal rail line to Onitsha).
The minister hinted that being from the southern region and very close to the South-east, there was no way that such could happen, adding that other places like Jenna, Birin-kebbi-Sokoto line was also in the process in order to capture the whole country.
He however, denied the exclusion of the South-eastern geopolitical zone from the ongoing rail projects.
Responding, Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Sen. Shehu Sani, urged the minister to make available the viability reports of the ongoing projects before it.