Government seeks Senate’s nod for $6.1 billion railway projects loan
Lagos-Ibadan work to begin in March, says Amaechi
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has urged the Senate to approve $6.1billion loan from China Exim Bank for the construction of Calabar-Port Harcourt, Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano rail and Lagos to Kaduna railway.
The credit facility forms part of the $30billion loan the Presidency was seeking the National Assembly approval to fund critical infrastructure.
Amaechi, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Land and Transport, to defend the 2017 budget, explained that $3.4bilion was for the construction of Calabar-Port Harcourt railway, while Lagos-Ibadan would cost $1.5billion, while $2.7billion is for the construction of Lagos-Kaduna, with Kano railway to gulp $1.2 billion.
Pointing out that the Federal Government had provided its counterpart 15 percent fund, he said: “It will do us good if the National Assembly can kindly approve this loan of $30 billion because the $6.1 billion is part of it and that is why we need the National Assembly to approve. What was approved was the 15% counter part funding. But we need your approval to borrow.”
He disclosed that although the bank had approved the $1.5billion loan for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan railway, but the approval of the National Assembly was still needed to sign the loan so that construction work can commence in March.
Amaechi assured that the Federal Government would pursue the railway modernisation project with greater vigour in 2017 to achieve practical completion of the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano, Kano-Kaduna. Lagos to Calabar would commence from Calabar to Port Harcourt, with extension to Onne Deep Sea Port after the conclusion of the negotiation of a financing loan agreement.
He said the Federal Government was able to remobilise and resuscitate the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri central rail line project in 2016 as the contractors had left the site since 2012 and have been given certificate of completion even when the project was yet to be completed.
He explained that the contractors were asking for N80 billion for them to be remobilised and complete the project: “The contractors handling the project had demobilised and left site. In fact when they briefed me, they said they have gotten completion certificate even when the project was yet to be completed though the construction of the tracks from Itakpe-Aladja but no station, communication, signal length, water or power so they are being remobilised to site. I have asked the permanent secretary to do an audit of what is on ground.”
Amaechi disclosed that the ministry was also working with the Chinese company under a public-private-partnership (PPP) to continue the Abuja to Itakpe and from Aladja to Warri with a new deep-sea port in Warri.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Lands and Transport expressed reservation about the inability of the ministry to commence the two largest projects in the 2016 Appropriation Act, Calabar-Lagos-Kano modernisation project, even after the provision of the counterpart funding.
He said the project would have generated employment opportunities for Nigerian youths, pledging the determination of the committee to review the budget estimates.