Ongoing drive by the current administration to revamp the rail sector in Nigeria, will cut across the 36 states of the federation, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi said in Lagos, yesterday.
Reviewing progress made on the construction of the modernisation of Lagos to Kano rail project, which was commissioned earlier in the year, Amaechi said the government is currently sourcing loans to fast-track the construction of the Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri and Ibadan to Kano rail projects.
Meanwhile, the Joint Senate Committee on local and foreign debt and land transport on Monday, while charging the contractor handling the projects to deliver a job that meets international standards, insisting that the Chinese contractor, which has planned to import 45000 tonnes of steel must maximise local content in the area of raw materials and labour force.
The Guardian has exclusively reported that government was undermining its own policy on local content, as the $20billion contracts awarded so far for the rail projects were in favour of Chinese firms, with local firms at the risk of losing about $8billion if they were not involved in the projects.
“So far, we have seen that construction has started and by 2018 December we will start commercial services on the rail. Yesterday I was at Warri, Abraka and Agbor to review how far work has gone there. This is our way scheme to spend Nigeria out of recession. We will ensure that the rail development cut across all the states in Nigeria,” Amaechi said during the review.
The minister, who said there is no going back on promise to deliver the project by December 2018, said the government is satisfied with the level of work being done by the contractor so far.
He said: “We know that the economy cannot run without logistic. We are negotiating loans for the rest of the project from Ibadan to Kano, and at the same time negotiating for the Lagos to Calabar project. We are also sourcing for loan to construct the Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri and that covers both the South East and North East.
Explaining why the contractor is important steel from China to construct the tracks, Amaechi said Nigeria does not have the type of steel required for the construction.
“I am a Nigerian and my parents are from Nigeria, and I also work for Nigeria, so I will protect the interest of Nigeria. We don’t have the type of steel. Anybody who has it should come forward,” he challenged.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, said his committee and the Joint Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt’s visit to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd. (CCECC), was necessary to immediately set in perspective the lawmaker’s commitment to ensuring a high level of accountability in public expenditure.
Ashafa, who said the Senate would support effective delivery of the project, disclosed: “We have approved the release of the first part of the money needed for the project. It is left to the executive to ensure that proper agreement is put in place.”
“As requested, the sum of $5.851 billion being the total approved loan would be expended on the modernisation of Lagos to Kano, Kano to Kaduna, Lagos to Ibadan and Calabar to Lagos rail segments.
“On our part as the Senators holding the mandate of our constituents, we are totally committed to assisting the Executive arm in the actualisation of every developmental project within our purview.”
Chairman of the Joint Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt, Shehu Sani, underscored the need for Nigeria to scrutinise borrowings by the federal and state governments, stressing that such decision would speed up the nation’s development.
According to him, if successive borrowings at the federal and state levels in the past had been duly scrutinised and monitored, the nation would have fared far better than it is at the moment.
Speaking on the rail projects, Sani said: “Our desire is to see a modern railway that will facilitate our industrial aspiration. If you don’t have a modern and standard railway then you can as well forget everything about industrialisation.
“What we e are having now is a step to the future. We need to make the transportation of people and goods easier and more efficient. Our responsibility is to see that what we have approved from the floor of the senate is appropriately used on the project.”
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Sabiu Zakari, who said he was confident that the projects would be completed as at when due, disclosed that the federal government has completed its counterpart funding for the project.