Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The federal government yesterday shed more light on the benefits of the Eastern Rail Corridor which groundbreaking President Muhammadu Buhari performed virtually on Tuesday, saying it will stimulate economic activities in 14 states it covers.
Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, said the $1.96 billion Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Railway Corridor, would link 14 states, including the five South-east states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu as well as nine others.
The other states are: Rivers, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi and Gombe.
Amaechi, who was a guest on ‘The Morning Show’, the premier breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said the connecting spurs would be from Port Harcourt to Bonny where there would be a deep seaport and Port Harcourt to Owerri, Aba, Umuahia and Enugu.
He added that the deep blue sea project conceived by the federal government to fight piracy in Nigeria’s waters was being delayed by those benefitting from insecurity and raking in billions of dollars on the lease of vessels to the Nigerian Navy.
On the controversial Kano-Maradi rail line, the minister said the project is Nigeria’s contribution to a rail project conceived by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He stated that the Eastern Rail Corridor and its extensions are being handled by China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) and he had sought Buhari’s approval to connect Abakaliki and Awka from Enugu.
He explained: “That will cover the entire five states of the South-east from where we proceed to Makurdi, and from Makurdi to Lafia.
“Between Lafia and Kaduna, there is a connection from Kaduna to Kafanchan to join the western flank of the railway line which is a standard gauge.
“We will continue from Jos to Bauchi, Bauchi to Gombe.
“At Gombe, there is a spur headed to Damaturu and from Damaturu to Gashua and from Gombe again to Borno.”
He said the project entailed reconstruction of the narrow gauge system with an additional approval by the president to seek funds to build a standard gauge for the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line and the spurs.
On the deep blue sea project, he said the federal government was fighting those benefiting from insecurity on the nation’s waters.
He said the project, billed for launch by month-end, had all the platforms needed for progression, including three helicopters, three fixed-wing planes, two ships and 16 vessels, among others.
He accused the providers of rented vessels, who are paid billions of naira, of hampering the project.
“All the security architecture you need to get the project going is on the ground, but those who do business in the waters, those who benefit from insecurity, were making it difficult for the project to continue
“Now when the project continues, it will be difficult for anybody to say they are helping the navy with vessels and all that because we have all the platforms to provide security in our waters,” he said.
Amaechi added that “The reason why we will not go out of it is that there are people who provide vessels to NNPC and they are paid every week and they are paid billions of dollars in a lease and all that.”
On the controversial Kano-Maradi Rail Line, the minister said the project is Nigeria’s contribution to a rail project conceived by ECOWAS.
The project has come under criticism with questions raised over the rationale for such a project linking a foreign nation with a loan from China when Nigeria is in dire need of funds.
But Amaechi said a feasibility study of the project was first conducted by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said the project would be beneficial to Nigeria as cargoes initially destined for other countries would be redirected to the nation with the attendant economic benefits and job creation.
He said the government of Niger Republic had agreed that their national cargoes would go through Nigeria’s rail track.
Amaechi said the implication of the expected agreement to be signed between the two countries was that business would thrive in Kano and Abuja with the attendant job creation.
On the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, he stated that it had generated N120 million since the introduction of electronic ticketing.
According to him, the management of the rail line is no longer dependent on government subvention but on revenue generated through the e-ticketing to cover its operational cost.