By Naomi Sharang/Kingsley Okoye
Abuja, Nov. 6, 2020 The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Port Harcourt – Maiduguri (Eastern narrow gauge railway) is to start in 2021, says Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi.
He said this during the 2021 budget defence of the minidtry’s estimates before the Joint Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives held in Abuja on Friday.
Amaechi said that the rehabilitation of the gauge was part of priority projects of the Federal Government to achieve intermodal transportation to enhance economic growth.
He also mentioned the construction of the central railway from Itakpe to Abuja and connection to new Warri Port as part of the priority projects.
He disclosed that the ministry was proposing a total capital vote of N205,161,882,492 to cover: Land, N204,316,793,527; Marine, N845,088,965; and overhead of N358,799,999 in the 2021 budget for consideration.
The minister said that the aims and objectives of the proposals were to make significant progress on all ongoing projects as well as to complete and deliver modern railway services.
He said that the proposals would also provide an efficient and cost effective alternative transport for economic growth.
“It is also for creation of job opportunities for the citizenry.’’
He further said that under the railway modernisation programme, the construction of Lagos – Ibadan Standard Gauge line had reached 92 per cent completion.
“However, for the project to achieve full loan drawn down from our co-financier, China EXIM Bank, and attain practical completion for intended purpose, some aspects of works involving construction of upgraded railway stations, signaling and telecommunication system among others have to be completed.
“These additional and extra works amounting to 656 million dollars which is to be financed 100 per cent by the Federal Government has been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for implementation.
“Therefore, in order not to forestall the progress of implementation, adequate fund needs to be provided in the 2021 budget proposal to facilitate the completion of the project.’’
Amaechi said that the ministry in its budget proposal had presented amounts required for completion of some projects by the year 2021.
He said that it included completion and fencing on the Abuja – Kaduna railway line to ensure security and safety of train operations for the staff members, passengers and general public.
In his remarks, Mr Tajudeen Abass, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Land Transport, requested additional time to consider the budget proposal for the ministry owing to the delay in the submission of the document.