By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The federal government has disclosed that, the refusal of the senate to approve the $30 billion loan request from China Exim bank, forwarded to it by the executive has frustrated the eastern rail line, which will cover most of the cities in the South East, from Port harcourt to Maiduguri.
This is even as the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, who was summoned by the senate committee on transportation over the omission of the South East in the railway project of the federal government, admitted that the region was not captured in the standard gauge.
Speaking before the senators in the transport committee yesterday, the Minister said there is no deliberate intention to skip the South East region, but emphasized that the government will implement the rail project one step after another as there is not enough funds to cover all the cities at one swoop.
“Let me make it clear, the country does not have the resources to do railway in every village. It is not possible. $2.7 billion is one trillion Naira.
“So, for the railway you want to do from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri is about $12 .8billion which is about N9trillion equivalent to one year budget of Nigeria.
“Therefore, everything is done systematically, we can’t do all the projects at the same time. What we are doing is as we get the loan approved, we execute the project. Currently, we are following due process for the one of South East.”
He said the federal executive council had approved the $30 billion loan for them, but because there was no borrowing plan, they could not proceed with the project, especially considering that they did not what to disobey the senate.
He therefore urged the senate to approve the loan which he said has been resubmitted to to the lawmakers for approval. According to Amaechi, the ministry has done documentation for the eastern rail line, waiting to commence immediately the loan is approved by senate, except there is improved revenue in the country.
He also said that President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed that all the state capitals be connected through the standard gauge design, but insisted that the resources available is still not enough to capture all the regions at once.
At this point, the minister disclosed that the ministry has already placed advertisement for procurement to commence for the eastern line, provided that the money for the project is available.
Responding to the claim that the General Electric, which is one of the concessionaires in the eastern rail line project, has pulled out of the agreement, the minister said there is no agreement signed yet between GE and government yet.
Meanwhile, the eastern rail line is expected to cost the sum of $12 billion, and it transverses Port Harcourt, through Aba, Umuahia, Owerri, Nnewi, Awka, Abakaliki, Enugu, Markurdi, down to Maiduguri, linking South East, North Central and North East.