Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, urged the executive to prioritise the concession agreement and rehabilitation of the Eastern railway line project given the prospects of its impact on the economy and the need to reduce the burden on dilapidated roads in the axis. The Eastern rail line runs from Port Harcourt through Abia, Enugu, Benue, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano,Gombe and terminates in Maiduguri.
The appeal followed the consideration of a motion tagged: “Urgent need to resuscitate and re-activate the rehabilitation and concession of the eastern rail line project” sponsored by Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Whip of the Senate and over 100 others.
The Senate also mandated its Committee on Land Transport to interface with relevant ministries and agencies of the executive to facilitate the commencement of the project. It further mandated its Compliance Committee to ensure compliance and report back three weeks for further legislative action.
Explaining the rationale behind the motion, Kalu said: “The greatest challenges facing the nation as an emerging economy is poor infrastructural development. Specifically, the movement of goods and persons from one point to another is becoming very cumbersome, if not hazardous. The Federal Government in recognition of the fact that there is dire need for transformation of the Nigerian railway system into a more dynamic and functional one, encouraged the use of rail to reduce road traffic congestion problems and open up the sector to private sector investment to reduce its burden on the government.
“The Federal Government in 2017 entered into an agreement with General Electric, a Boston, U.S. company, under the Rehabilitation and Concessioning of Western and Eastern Railway lines to connect Abia, Rivers, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Kaduna, Katsina, Enugu, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Borno, Yobe and Kano states. And while the western lines of 1,126 km from Lagos, Kano to Nguru 230 km, Funtua 100km and Kaura Namoda 121 km. The Eastern lines are from Port Harcourt to Kaduna 915km, Maiduguri 706 km, Jos 35 km. In spite of the fact that the railways are more efficient in haulage of bulk loads over long distances in environmental and economic ease including cargoes and petroleum products, the sector suffers neglect, especially the Eastern rail line which commences in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, passing through Abia, Enugu, Benue, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano, Gombe and Maiduguri, Borno State. The Eastern rail line had been denied a similar attention given to Lagos Kano (Western) rail line in spite of the fact that investigations revealed that the Eastern rail line remains the most lucrative route in Nigeria.”