Railway interconnectivity may gulp $40bN – Amaechi

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Nigeria needs between US$36 to $40 billion to actualise the
rail connectivity to all state capitals, the Minister of Transportation Mr
Rotimi Amaechi said on Friday.

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Amaechi while fielding questions on reasons for the slowdown
in the Lagos – Calabar coastal rail said, though the project was awarded by
ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the government does not have the money to
handle it.

He said: “The Lagos-Calabar rail has been awarded but we
have not gotten money. We are even still looking for money for Lagos to Kano. I
come from South-South and I am emotionally attached to that project but it is
unfortunate that we have not gotten money. It was awarded under President
Jonathan and President Obasanjo awarded the Lagos-Kano rail line. The directive
of the President is that we should do everything possible to get the
interconnectivity of the tracks and like I tell Nigerians, everybody has to be
patient because we need between $36 to $40 billion to be able to do that
connectivity.

“Those who are criticising Buhari must remember that there
was a point in time we had money and we were all enjoying that money by way of
corruption. Now you people are harassing us and asking where is the money.

“So, it is a bit difficult. We are trying to meet the
challenges we are facing, finding solutions to them according to the directive
of the President but Nigerians must realize that these challenges are only
resolved by funds and those funds are not just readily available.”

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Addressing the progress on the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge,
Amaechi expressed satisfaction.

He said though President Muhmadu Buhari could ride on the
train by end of May, yet, the works that are outstanding are still enormous.

He said: “Yes, if Mr President wants to ride on the train he
could do by end of May, by which time, the dual tracks would have been laid to
Ibadan all the way from Lagos, but that is not the focus. We are concerned not
only with tracks, but in providing the stations. Put the trains on the tracks
and build an efficient communications system.”

Amaechi was accompanied on the trip by the Ghanaian Minister
for Rail Development Mr Joe Ghartey, who led a high powered delegation that
included the Deputy Managing Director (Engineering) Ghana Railway Corporation
Mr. Michael Anyeta Adjei, officials of CCECC Ghana and Team Consultants Ghana.

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Also on the trip are the Senate Committee Chairman on Land
Transport Senator Gbenga Ashafa, the NRC MD, Mr Fidet Okhiria, the Managing
Director Nigeria Zhiopers Council Mr Ahmed Hassan, and top officials of the
Federal Ministry of Transportation, led by the Director of Rail Mr Babakobi.

Amaechi said though the contractor failed to lay the tracks
to kilometre 92 as agreed at its last meeting, he was happy that the
substructure of the track platform had been laid to kilometre 98, while he has
been a assured that track laying can get to kilometre 101 by first week of
April.

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Ghartey, the Ghanaian Minister of Rail Development praised
his Nigerian Colleague for what he called “his infectious optimism and
commitment” to the project.

He said it is impressive that the project is ahead of
deadline by one year.

“I want to assure you that we would go back home and
replicate what we have seen here in Nigeria,” he said.

He said he and his team are in Nigeria to learn from the
Nigerian government as well as CCECC Nigeria because “We are about completing
the negotiations ahead of the construction of 100 kilometre standard gauge line
between Tema and Takoradi.”

He added, “I’ve told your minister that I am very impressed
about the giant strides going on in Nigeria and I will drive my people so hard
to beat his record. And when we complete ours too, I with invite him and the
Nigerian media.”

Ashafa in his remarks allayed fears that the project may be
abandoned. He said the National Assembly will continue to throw its weight Into
ensuring that this project is delivered for the benefit of Nigerians.

Nigerian Shippers Council MD Mr Ahmed Hassan expressed
happiness that the project is on course. He said for the movement of goods and
services the train remains the best alternative and would give truckers a huge
relief.

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