President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the Federal Government’s commitment to the resuscitation of rail transportation in the Eastern corridor of Nigeria, Port to Maiduguri, believing this will help in linking the country, and also aid movement of goods and services.
He was speaking at the flagging off ceremony for the commencement of construction work on the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow gauge rail line, with branch lines to Owerri, Imo State, and Damaturu, Yobe State, the Port Harcourt Rail Park, and the Bonny Deep Sea Port. He said: “The project was with the objective of resuscitating the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern corridor of the country, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. We are further extending to assuage contemporary demand for transport in the North East, and South Eastern geo-political zones of the country. It is also designed to link other standard gauge rail lines under construction.
“The funding of the railway is through loan, to fund 85 per cent of project cost, with the Federal government’s contribution of 15 per cent as counterpart funding.”
One the Bonny Deep Sea Port and Port Harcourt Rail Park also flagged off, Buhari said the project were being carried out with direct investment with a consortium of investors from China. He said: “The second in the project are the Bonny Deep Sea Port and the Industrial Rail Park in Port Harcourt that are to be constructed through direct investment by our Chinese partners and international financing agencies. These projects will serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and exports, as well as support import into the hinterland of the country through the new deep sea port in Bonny Island, River State.”
In his address at the occasion, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi said the rail project was part of the comprehensive rehabilitation and expansion of the Nigerian railway network to meet up with the transport infrastructure need of the country.
He said the Eastern Narrow Gate Rail project will have new extensions to Bonny from Elerenwo, and the extension to Owerri from Port Harcourt.
The transport minister said: “This railway project is a part of the comprehensive project is a part for the comprehensive plan for the realization, rehabilitation and expansion of the Nigerian railway network to meet up with the transport infrastructure needs of the country. The Eastern narrow gauge railway is of the transport infrastructure established in the pre-independence period and played a significant role in the development of agriculture and industrial sectors in the colonial era, and immediate post-independence years up till 1985 when it became unfit for the purpose due to the general neglect and the divestment suffered by the Nigerian railway.
“The efforts of government in the rehabilitation of these rail lines in year 2009 and 2012 did not achieve the desired outcome partly due to inadequate funding and incompetence of some of the contractors employed. The rail lines therefore had been unserviceable. The need for a rail line on this eastern corridor persists and remains compelling. The supply chain on this corridor vanishes, and articles and items such as petroleum products, iron and steel, minerals, life-stock and poultry products’ availability were reduced, giving rice to high cost affecting the manufacturing and agro-allied industries. The Federal Government therefore focused on its revival.
“It is important to note that as Minister for Transport, there were two approvals that were secured: the first approval is the construction of the narrow gauge rail line as a temporary measure, and the second approval is for the construction 1500 kilometres of standard gauge rail line for the eastern rail line.”
He said upon completion, trains of the Port Harcourt Maiduguri Eastern narrow gauge railway, will run at 60 to 80 kilometres per hour and 80 to 100 kilometres per hour for freights and passengers respectively.
He also spoke on the new deep sea port in Bonny. He said: “While the rail way project is to be co-finance from loan from a syndicate of Chinese financiers with the Federal government’s contribution of 15 per cent project cost, the Bonny Sea Port and the Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by the conglomerate led by CCECC Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of $700m. This investment gain can be attributed to the unrelenting efforts of the Ministry of Transportation.
” The Bonny Deep seaport has a container terminal of 500,000TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit, 100,000 death weight storage (DWS).
“The Railway Industrial park port Harcourt will be supported by necessary infrastructure, power, water, waste disposal, ICT, as well as transportation, logistic centre and ancillaries.”