From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has recommended that anyone caught engaging in vandalism of railway facilities in the country should be charged with manslaughter.
He gave the recommendation Friday as guest of the ministerial media briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the presidential villa, Abuja. According to him, applying stringent laws will curb the deadly act, which can cause train derailment and death of unsuspecting passengers.
The minister lamented that railway clips are frequently stolen causing the country huge sums of money in foreign currency to replace. The Police had last week, arraigned suspected railway vandals at the Federal High Court sitting in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.
The police charged the suspects for conspiracy, economic sabotage, and terrorism while the lawyer of the Chinese national was charged with abetting terrorism for offering bribe to the police to aid his client’s escape. He further informed that President Muhammadu Buhari will launch the construction of Kano-Kaduna rail project in the next few weeks.
The minister also disclosed that the Federal Government has committed the sum of $280 million for the $1.2 billion for Kaduna-Kano rail, which is set to begin in two weeks and further $100 million to be added in the coming weeks. He noted that funding may rise to $600 million by the end of the year. The minister explained that funding for the new project will come from the federal budget while Chinese financing is being awaited. Amaechi said he is adopting a model that can help minimise external borrowing.
Nigeria owed China $3.4 billion as of March 31, according to the Debt Management Office. The amount covers 11 loan facilities from the China Exim Bank since 2010.
He said: “In the next two weeks, we should be launching and commencing immediately the construction of Kano-Kaduna rail project. The President will be launching it and then we will commence construction immediately. The reason we are commencing construction immediately is that all the necessary contracts have been awarded.”
Amaechi also affirmed that that the Lekki deep seaport will be completed before the end of the present administration. He revealed that Nigeria and China have signed a contract to manufacture train coaches locally in the country following an initial five-year period of just the local assembling of the components.