By Boluwatife Ezekiel Olaleye
The Federal Government is negotiating a $15 billion loan to complete the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail project.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed this yesterday after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the Itakpe/Warri railway project will be completed and commissioned by August this year.
The minister told State House Correspondents that the rail projects in the South-East had been approved but were being delayed by paucity of funds to commence work.
Amaechi said he was set to travel to India where the loan would be negotiated.
The minister, who stated that President Buhari had approved that negotiation should be carried out for the loan, said the President had also given the approval for negotiation of funds for the execution of Lagos-Calabar rail project to ensure its speedy completion, stressing that lack of funds had been the reason for the delay.
He said: “Don’t forget that the Lagos-Calabar rail project is yet to start because of funds; the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri is yet to start because of funds, but the President has approved that we negotiate for funds.
“We are almost concluding negotiations for the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. We are looking at the cost – is in the neighbourhood of between $14 and $15 billion.’’
He said a lot of progress had been made in the area of revamping rail transportation network across the country.
Amaechi, who also disclosed that laying of tracks on the Lagos-Ibadan route would commence next month, and expressed the hope that the project would provide a lot of job opportunities to Nigerians, said: “If the rain doesn’t start early, we will start laying tracks on the Lagos-Ibadan route in April and hopefully, we believe we can complete it in December or January and open it up for passengers and business and we expect about 6,000,000 tonnes of cargo out of the 30,000,000 tonnes of cargo that we have between Lagos and Kano.
“In terms of job creation, you can be rest assured that it will be in thousands.”
He re-assured that adequate security had been taken to guarantee safety of passengers aboard rail transportation in the country.