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.

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.”

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.

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.

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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