Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Federal government has approved the request from the Ministry of Transportation to source for a whopping sum of $2.3 billion loan to prosecute the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail line.
Minister of Transportation, Chibuike, Rotimi Amaechi, who made the disclosure during his valedictory press briefing in Abuja, said that it would connect the central lines in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Onitsha, Benin, Delta.
“The Federal government has approved that we seek a loan for $2.3 billion to start work on the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail. We are taking the segment that starts from Port Harcourt-Warri to join the central line that goes to Abuja.
“Another segment will start from Benin-Onitsha, but as it gets to Onitsha, it will join central line again at Agbo. The Port Harcourt-Warri central line will join central line at Warri and at Agbo. They are all part of coastal rail line which is about $11.1 billion,” he said.
Recalling his close to four years journey as the ministry boss, he said the landmark projects he executed include completing the Abuja-Kaduna railway line, and the laying of Lagos-Ibadan rail tracks.
The former Rivers State governor further argued that although the ministry has been under pressure to increase the number of coaches and locomotives on Abuja-Kaduna line but solving the insecurity problem along the road would make the coaches useless.
“There are issues the president wants us to conclude at the ministry when he posted us. He wanted us to conclude Abuja-Kaduna railway. We got the approval for the fund in no distance time.
“We visited the Daughters of Charity because the premises was on the right of way. I have to bring my experience to bear as a Catholic. We gave them land, fenced it and constructed the railway line.
“We provided funds for the purchase of coaches and locomotives. Today, nearly everybody who goes to Kaduna from Abuja, now use the train. I think it is the star project of the ministry. We provided for 300 persons per day but now we have 2,000 persons per day.
“Even if we bring in the two additional coaches we are bringing from Itakpe, it will still not solve the problem of pressure. The suggestion is that we should buy more coaches but even if we do that, once we solve the problem of insecurity along the Abuja-Kaduna road, most of those coaches will be useless because the pressure will go back to the road.
“Those who own cars would want to go with their convoy. However, we have placed order for coaches we want to deploy to the route as soon as they are ready. When it will be ready, I don’t know.
“The permanent secretary and whoever will be the minister can take that pressure. After this week, that pressure goes off me and people will stop sending me text messages,” he said.
Speaking further, he said: “The next star project is the Lagos-Ibadan railway. All of you doubted that we will not get to Ibadan but I can confirm to you that we have crossed Obiado. They have passed kilometre 137 out of the kilometre 159. For doing more than four kilometre per day, they will finish before the end of this month.
“They are already commencing the building of the stations. There are other projects considered for construction. The one we just got approval from the cabinet is the central line which begins from Abuja to Itakpe, with a port in Lokoja with a seaport in Warri. The problem is that the Federal government is not borrowing money.
“SPV will borrow the money; the Federal government will contribute 15 per cent of the equity. The contractor will contribute 10 per cent of the equity then the SPV will provide 75 per cent of the equity. We will give sovereign guarantee to enable them get quick loan.
“The contract will in turn give us performance guarantee, which means concessioning it to them to run the rail line and seaport for 20 or 30 years. It is a wonderful PPP arrangement,” he explained.