TRANPORT minister Rotimi Amaechi has revealed that the federal government is planning to apply for an $11bn loan to construct the Lagos-Calabar coastal railway line along Nigeria’s 853km Atlantic coastline.
First built by the British in 1898, Nigeria’s railway network has remained one of the most under-developed parts of the economy and over the last decade, the government has set about modernising it. Most of Nigeria’s 3,505knm of railway track is made up of 19th century single track lines, with the carriages lacking modern facilities like toilets and trains being pulled by diesel-powered locomotives.
Over the last 10 years, however, the government has been gradually upgrading the service, with a double track line opened to connect Abuja and Kaduna. This is being expanded, with the upgraded Lagos to Ibadan line expected to open soon and plans in the pipeline to extend it all the way to Kano.
Speaking on Lagos yesterday, however, during an interactive session with the South East, South South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN), Mr Amaechi said the federal government needs the two geo-political zones to help achieve its goals. He had been invited to address some concerns of the people, which included security, power, economic and social integration and representation in government.
Mr Amaechi said: “In the south-south and southeast, we fight amongst ourselves. I’m saying this so that we can separate emotions from reality. Today, it is not about President Muhammadu Buhari, it is about us. This administration is doing a lot but because it is President Buhari, we pretend not to see it.
“We complain about lopsided appointments but apart from the area of security, have you checked other areas side by side? The president will appoint someone from the southeast, and people from the same region will fight against the appointment, if you are the president, how will you feel?
“When we took office, the president asked us to complete all projects left by previous administrations before starting new ones. We did that and it was across all regions. We completed Port Harcourt Airport, we are working on Enugu Airport and on Enugu-Onitsha road, work is going on, no matter how slow.
“The second Niger Bridge in Onitsha is 48% completed and we have assured the country that by 2022 it will be completed. What informs my decision of choosing which rail line to construct at any point in time, is the economics of the project and currently, the economics show that Lagos to Kano has the capacity to move 30m tonnes of cargo per year.
“I do the same analysis for Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and it is11 million tonnes. We are currently doing the analysis for Lagos to Calabar to know how many tonnes of cargo can be moved there per year.”