The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved an interim agreement for the concession of the Lagos-Kano and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri old narrow gauge railway lines to a consortium led US engineering conglomerate, General Electric (GE).
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who briefed State House correspondents, the interim concession agreement would allow the consortium to immediately commence improvements in the operational capacity of the rail network.
The approval, Mohammed added, would aid the completion and full utilisation of the narrow guage system from October this year.
He said the development “means that with effect from October this year, there will be new locomotives with about 17 wagons that will be in use; we’ll be able to move a million tonnes of our goods, and by this, preserve the lifespan of our roads”.
The consortium that the concession has been handed to comprises General Electric, South Africa’s Transnet and Sino Hydro from China.
The government said the concession arrangement with GE would see investments of over $2 billion in the country’s major narrow-gauge railway lines.
The US firm was announced as the preferred concessionaire in May by the federal government after it had emerged as the preferred bidder for the railway lines.
“We are giving the narrow gauge system to GE as a concession. The concession will be for about 30 years, in which GE will rehabilitate and run it over that duration,” Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi had said.
“With the agreement being signed, we expect that they (GE) commence operations immediately. They will operate and repair the narrow gauge.”
It is believed that the concession deal with GE is the first of many to come as part of the government’s drive to revitalise Nigeria’s ailing infrastructure.