By Ignatius Ushie
The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Ameachi has disclosed that federal government is about to begin construction of four new rail projects across the country.
Ameachi gave the hint in Abuja at the 2020 edition of Annual Ministerial Press Briefing on landmark programmes, projects and activities of the ministry and agencies in Abuja, adding that the contracts have been awarded.
He said that government had already obtained funds for some of the projects and is now waiting for cabinet approval to commence work.
According to him, “The ones we are about to start are Ibadan-Kano, that, we are waiting for funds from China, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, we have a bit of the fund, but we are waiting for the cabinet to approve. We are also about to start Kano-Maradi, and Lagos-Calabar rail lines. But, one thing that is unique in all these projects is that the President early enough in his government directed that all rail lines must terminate at the Seaports.
“There is a bit of adjustment in the pricing because we had to adjust Kano-Maradi to link up to Kano-Lagos so that it will terminate at Lagos seaport. The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri is not only terminating at Port Harcourt seaport, it is going from Port Harcourt seaport to Bonny, where we are building a deep seaport” he said.
Amaechi said the 185.5km Lagos-Ibadan double standard guage line with extension to Apapa seaport is near completion, while the 186km Abuja-Kaduna and 302km Warri-Itakpe standard guage lines had been completed and were functional.
According to the minister, the Itakpe-Warri rail line, is a project many confirmed had drastically reduced transport fare to and from that axis.
Responding to a question, the Minister decried the alleged growing incidences of sharp practices by ticket sellers on the Abuja-Kaduna route, lamenting that some complain that tickets of N2,500 are sometimes sold at N10.000 by racketeers, adding that Nigerians are breaching the electronic ticketing system put in place for efficiency and accountability, warning that such actions can compromise national security.
“We must match the tickets to face carrying the ticket so that we don’t run into security problem. Security is central, a man who may be a bomber may be given a ticket that is not meant for him and then we are in trouble ” he said.
Amaechi said economic considerations informed the decision to settle for narrow gauge for the reconstruction of the Eastern Rail line, from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
“Some people may say why did you have to build narrow gauge for the Eastern line, simple, the answer is we had two approvals, the two approvals are as follows: we have a standard gauge approval that is between $11 to $14 billion for Port Harcourt with the same alignment, no changes, but it is costlier”. Present at the briefing were the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Heads of Agencies in the Transport Ministries, Stake holders among others.