The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, claimed that the Buhari led Federal Government was set to apply for an $11billion loan to construct Lagos to Calabar rail.
Amaechi made the disclosure during an interactive session with the South-East and South-South Professionals of Nigeria, SESSPN, in Lagos.
The group is said to havecornered the loquacious Minister when he was in Lagos recently and seek to usethe occasion to seek clarifications on a number of policy decisions as itaffects the regions, particularly in the areas of security, power, socialintegration and representation in the President Muhammadu Buhari-ledgovernment.
Amaechi on why railway work was yet to commence in the South-East, said, “I hate tribalism. I’ve said this before. Me, I’m a Nigerian, and what informs my decision of choosing which rail line to construct at any point in time, is the economics of rail, currently, he asserts, the economics shows that Lagos to Kano has the capacity to move 30 million tonnes of cargo per year.
“I did some analysis for Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line and it’s 11 million tonnes. We are currently doing the analysis for Lagos to Calabar to know how many tonnes of cargo can be moved there per year.
So, we started with the Lagos to Kano railline. President Olusegun Obasanjo approved it, President Jonathan startedconstruction on it by doing Abuja to Kaduna and President Buhari told us tocomplete all previous projects.
“Now, we are applying for an $11billion loan to construct Lagos to Calabar rail. There was no design for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. We knew that the first thing to do was to commence a feasibility study, after that, we’ll do the design.
It’s now they’ll start to do the site drawing.In the next three months, they will be doing that, you’ll start shouting again:why are they not constructing? You forget that Ibadan to Kano, they are justfinishing the design now, that’s why they’ve not started construction.
“The President told usthat all rail lines in Nigeria must be standard gauge. So, we did a standardgauge design for the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line. We went to Bonny to dothe study and we did that study up to Maiduguri.
I did a feasibility study that brought it between $14 billion to $11 billion. “When we finished, we got approval from the President, but I realised that we may not get the money in this government.
I changed my course, and I said, while we are looking for money for the standard gauge for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, let me ask for money to reconstruct the narrow-gauge at $3.1 billion. And the President after much argument, accepted.
After some time, he agreed, that we can proceed with the narrow-gauge while seeking money to construct the standard gauge”. “At least, I’m sure that before we leave the government, we would have done up to 80 percent of that rail line. Also, there was no line to Owerri, I added Owerri to the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail design, because of the Industrial Park and the University of Transportation in Ubima,” Amaechi added.