The Federal Government of Nigeria has said delivering the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri eastern rail line during the current administration’s tenure is no longer feasible.
Mu’azu Sambo, minister of transportation, said this on Wednesday while fielding questions on what is hindering the administration from delivering the project before May 29, 2023 as earlier promised.
He explained that the delay is due to the federal government’s inability to secure foreign loans that will make 85 percent of the funds needed to execute for the project.
“The question relating to the promise to deliver the eastern line narrow gauge before the end of this administration. 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,” he said.
“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 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.”
In March 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari performed the groundbreaking of the $1.96 billion rail line project, saying it would stimulate economic activities in 14 states where it traverses.
The benefiting states included the south-east states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu. Others are Rivers, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, and Gombe.
However, in September, 2022, Sambo said work on the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line was suspended due to insecurity and vandalism of railway properties along the corridor.
He said the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC), the contractor handling the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the project, had complained of attacks on its workers along the Abia state axis.