From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has stated that the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway would lead to the reactivation of economic activities in the eastern region which has been greatly affected by the activities of insurgents.
President Buhari, speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway project, Bonny Deep Seaport and Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt, said that the project would serve as a stimulus for industry and trade which the region is known for.
The President further explained that the connection of the railway to a new seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt, is designed to increase the viability and boost transhipment of cargo and freight locally and across Africa.
‘The country’s aspiration for nationwide transport infrastructure and railways is significantly enhanced by these three projects that were conceived to be integrated in their operations,’ the President said.
‘The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway will translate to reactivation of economic activities along the Eastern corridor, which has been greatly affected by insurgent activities and serve as a stimulus for industry and trade.
‘The connection of the railway to a new seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt is designed to increase the viability and boost transhipment of cargo and freight locally, across the West African sub-region and in the Continental Free Trade Area.
‘The sum of the socio-economic and environmental benefits of these projects includes the creation of massive employment locally. There will be further utilization of local contents and technology transfer, increase in internally generated revenue and would serve as a fulcrum for the achievement of the Federal Government planned Integrated Development Masterplan.’
The President urged Nigerians, specifically industrialists, manufacturers and businesses within the zones, to take full advantage of the infrastructure in planning for expansion and building new factories to join in raising Nigeria’s economy to the global stage and reaffirm our leading role in Africa.
Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi, in his remarks earlier, said that the project is in line with the President’s directives to implement the Nigeria Railway Modernisation project and ease transportation and boost the economy in the region.
The minister explained that the railway project is to be co-financed by a loan from a syndicate of Chinese financiers with a federal government contribution of 15% of project cost, the Bonny Deepsea port and Railway Industrial park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by the conglomerate led Messrs China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CECC) Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of US$700 million.
Amaechi added that when completed, trains on the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway will run at 60-80 kilometres per hour Kph and 80-100 kilometres per hour Kph for freight and passenger, respectively, while the Bonny Deepsea port has a container terminal of 500,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) per annum capacity and 100,000 DWT (Deadweight tonnage) Berth
‘This railway project is a part of the comprehensive plan for the revitalisation, rehabilitation and expansion of the Nigerian Railway network to meet up with the transport infrastructure needs of the country. The Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway is one of the transport infrastructure established in the pre-independence period and played a significant role in the development of agriculture and industrial sectors in the colonial era and immediate post-independence year up till 1985,’ he said.