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Railway revitalisation to cost $37.8bn, says Amaechi

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A total of $37.8 billion would be spent on the revitalisation and expansion of six major rail networks in Nigeria by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Minister of Transportation Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has said.

Amaechi spoke at the 2021 annual public lecture of the Department of Economics, University of Lagos, which was held at the J.F Ade Ajayi Auditorium, on Friday.

Speaking on the topic: Nigeria’s National Rail Transport Project: Network, Financing, Challenges and the Way Forward, Amaechi said when the entire six national Rail networks are fully on stream, Nigerians would have spent $37.8 billion.

The minister explained that of this sum, the administration has only obtained a $500 million loan with which it wrapped up the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge project.

Amaechi observed that though it is becoming increasingly difficult to access funds, yet without transportation there may not be any economy.

Breaking up the rail networks Amaechi said while Lagos-Calabar, for which the government is yet seeking funding would consume $11.5 billion, the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge which has been delivered cost $2 billion, while Ibadan -Kano would cost $5.3 billion.

Other networks being worked upon are: the construction of the Port Harcourt -Maiduguri narrow gauge $3.3 billion, while the standard gauge of the same route which President Muhammadu Buhari has approved has $12.2 billion, for which funds are being sought, while the central line of Abuja-Itakpe to the sea would gulp $3.9 billion.

He said though for most of these projects, he has graciously secured the presidential approval, none is yet to take off because of lack of funds.

The minister explained that railway construction and operations have the potential to create employment and take millions of Nigerians out of poverty.

He said railway is a key factor in the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Amaechi who observed that so much is being done to reposition the railway system and make it a catalyst for efficient logistics said most of the constructions are driven purely by economic factors, adding that he would continue to resist political pressures in the citing you of railway projects and construction of rail lines whether narrow or standard gauge.

Amaechi who said railway is driven more by freight rather than passenger services said Nigeria does not have the economic activity to carry connecting many of the nation’s cities by standard gauge rail.

“Our total tonnage per annum is 30 million metric tonnes. This can be evacuated within a month by the Nigerian Railway, adding that if Nigerians wanted better service, they should increase their production.

In the same manner, if I discover increased and sustained demand for faster trains, I would not hesitate to provide it, but right now, our activity can only adequately be catered for by a 150km rail service.”

Amaechi disclosed that the Nigerian Railway Corporation would be unbundled with three companies coming out of the present corporation.

While a company to be known as Infraco (Infrastructure company) would be in charge of providing infrastructure, especially the fixed assets, the NRC would evolve into an operations company, while the third company would be a purely commercial entity that would be in charge of the marketing operations of the railway activities.

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