Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has revealed that the federal government is seeking a loan in the region of $40 to $46 billion dollars to complete some ongoing rail projects and embark on new ones.
The minister, who spoke exclusively to LEADERSHIP, said "the Federal Government is looking at between $40 to $46 billion dollars to complete all rail projects that would connect major state capitals across the country.
Speaking generally on the rail sector, the minister said "I think the rail sector is doing fine. The first aspect of it , which is the narrow gauge is where we are not doing much. We are not doing much in the sense that we are negotiating with General Electric, GE to renovate the narrow gauge and manage it under concession.
"The concession would see GE invest in the narrow gauge rail system that traverses almost the entire country.
"One trunk of the rail line starts from Lagos and goes through several states like Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Niger and Kaduna down to Kano .
Another trunk starts from Port Harcourt through Abia , Enugu, Benue , Nasarawa , Plateau , Bauchi and Gombe state and terminates in Maiduguri .
"Then, on the new rail lines, we have proceeded to Lagos and we are working on the Lagos to Ibadan rail, which is part of the Lagos to Kaduna.
We will do everything possible to ensure that we complete the Lagos to Ibadan railway . We are already negotiating with contractors who will fund the project. If we are able to complete the arrangements , again taking into consideration the Nigerian law , we will start many of them ( rail projects) this year.
Also, the minister said President Mohammed Buhari is about to award the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line. The plan is to ensure that train gets to all the state capital.
On the importance of making this huge investments in the rail sector, the minister said "could you imagine the benefits of moving massive goods from Port Harcourt to Jos or moving a cargo from Lagos to Kano? Now, you cannot quantity the benefits at all."
On the dry Inland Port, he revealed that the one of Plateau will be commissioned by end of April, 2018. "You see, these dry port projects are mainly handled by private investors, so there is noting much governmental can do about it.
"However, the best thing government can do is assist with infrastructure. That is why I said the one of Jos will be completed by April because the governor was with me and we are trying to see how we can commission it in March. We have one in Kano, Isi Alangwa, Funtua; I think in total, we have about six or seven or them and work is progressing," the minister explained.
On the progress so far with work at the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, Amaechi said " We still believe we can complete this project before the end of 2018. We have problems in Lagos metropolis and with the relocation of a military barracks but we are working on these challenges.
"We hope this project will be completed within time frame. Nigerians are putting us under immense pressure. This contract is three years and we are doing it within one year and two months. Our target is December 2018 at most."