President Muhammadu Buhari had last March performed the groundbreaking ceremony to commence the reconstruction of the rail line
The federal government has disclosed a failure to secure loans in the international debt market to finance the reconstruction of the Eastern Rail Line, dashing expectations the key national infrastructure will be ready in time before the end of the Buhari administration.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last March performed the groundbreaking ceremony to commence the reconstruction of the rail line, which was originally built by the British before Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
“The connection of the railway to a new seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt is designed to increase the viability and boost transshipment of cargo and freight locally, across the West African sub-region and in the Continental Free Trade Area,” the president had said in his speech, also announcing the complementary seaport and industrial park.
Then, former transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi said the project would be ready before the expiration of the Buhari administration next year.
However, speaking in Abuja on Wednesday, Mr. Amaechi’s successor, Muazu Sambo, said the delivery before May 29, 2023, when Mr. Buhari’s tenure ends, was no longer feasible citing failure to secure loans to back the financing of the project.
“The question relating to the promise to deliver the eastern line narrow gauge before the end of this administration,” said Mr. Sambo, addressing journalists at the State House. “Now, the eastern line is the line from Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, it has been segmented in such a way that the first part of the works covers from Port Harcourt to Enugu.”
“Now, the truth of the matter is that if there was a promise to deliver this line before the end of this administration, this promise is no longer feasible because, when the contract was approved, it was approved on the premise that 85 percent will be funded through the foreign loan, while 15 percent will be the counterpart funding for the national budget.
“Since that approval, we have not been able to obtain that 85 percent foreign loan for this project. We have been funding it through the national budget on the bases of the 15 percent counterpart funding of the federal government. And therefore, funding has been a major challenge for this project.”