Tuesday, January 31, 2017 7:04 pm
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has pleaded with the senate to approve the Federal Government’s 29.96 billion dollars loan request to enable it commence the proposed rail modernisation projects.
Amaechi made the appeal at the 2017 budget defence before the Senate Committee on Land Transport, on Tuesday in Abuja.
He explained that the 6.1 billion dollars required for the projects was a loan from the China Exim Bank, which he said was part of the 29.96 billion dollars to be borrowed by the Federal Government.
The minister said the cost for the Calabar-Port Harcourt rail line was 3.4 billion dollars, while Kano-Kaduna was 1.2 billion dollars.
According to him, the total loan scheme for Lagos-Ibadan is 1.5 billion dollars plus 1.2 billion dollars for kano-Kaduna, which will be 2.7 billion and 3.4 billion dollars for Port Harcourt to Calabar line.
“This brings the total to 6.1 billion dollars and the government has paid the 15 per cent while waiting for China Exim Bank.
“They have managed to approve the 1.5 billion dollars for Lagos – Ibadan while the negotiation for the remaining money is ongoing.
“ It will do us good if the National Assembly can approve the loan because the 6.1 billion dollars for the projects is part of it.
“What the NASS has already approved is the counterpart funding which is N72 billion we have paid in naira but the remaining huge 85 per cent is coming from China as a loan.
“Even now, the China Exim Bank has approved 1.5 billion dollars for the Lagos-Ibadan line but we are not able to go to sign the loan agreement because we need the approval of the National Assembly,’’ he said.
Amaechi said that government would pursue the railway modernisaton project with greater vigour in 2017 to achieve practical completion of the Abuja-Kaduna segment 1 of Lagos-Kano Rail line that is already operational.
He said the foundation of the Lagos-Ibadan segment 2 of the Lagos-Kano rail project was expected to be inaugurated in the first quarter of 2017.
The minister added that the Kano-Kaduna segment of the Lagos-Kano rail project and the Calabar-Port Harcourt phase of the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail line would also commence 2017.
He said the ministry’s budget performance in 2016 included the completion of the mainline and provision of operation facilities for the Abuja-Kaduna rail line as well as remobilisation and resuscitation of
Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri central rail line project.
According to him, the ministry is in the process of procuring additional locomotive and coaches to meet the rising demand of passenger traffic on the Abuja- Kaduna rail line in 2016.
Amaechi said the 2017 budget proposal had captured expenditure relating to the completion of the projects and the counterpart payment for the Kano-Kaduna segment 3 of Lagos-Kano rail line.
He added that the proposal also captured the expenditure for the Calabar-Port Harcourt rail line with extension to ONNE Deep Seaport segment of the Coastal Rail line from Lagos to Calabar.
“In line with the government’s objective to expand and build new lines for the Nigerian Railway Network, especially to link key industrial and economic centres with involvement and participation of foreign and domestic private investors.
“Feasibility studies were conducted to determine the technical feasibility and economic viability of the chosen routes for negotiation and engagement with prospective investors,’’ he said.
Sen. Gbenga Ashafa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, said the goal of the senate was to achieve a better public transportation system for every Nigerian, particularly in the aspect of rail transport.
Ashafa said the senate was committed to working together with the executive to consolidate on the achievements recorded in the past years while critically interrogating all the challenges faced in 2016 budget.
He, however, expressed the committee’s reservations towards the inability of the government to commence the Lagos-Calabar and Lagos-Kano rail modernization projects in 2016.
According to him, these projects would have gone a long way in creating employment to the large number of unemployed Nigerians at the moment, thereby improving the economy.
“To this end, we will look for a way to interrogate the recurrent side of the budget estimates to ensure that it is as smart as possible while also ensuring that the capital expenditure is channeled in the right direction,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the total allocation to the Ministry of Transportation in 2017 budget is N262 billion while in 2016, it got N202 billion. (NAN)