FG to pay N71bn counterpart funding for six railway projects

The Federal Government is to partly fund six rail projects connecting virtually all regions of the country with a counterpart funding of N71.15bn this year.

Also, N15.1bn will be spent on the development of safety and security critical projects, airport certification, runway construction, terminal building, among others in the aviation sector in 2021.

A report on selected projects in the 2021 budget obtained by our correspondent from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in Abuja showed that in the rail sector, the government had mapped out six projects that it would partly fund this year.

The government stated that the N71.15bn would serve as counterpart funding for railway projects including the Lagos-Kano rail line (ongoing), Calabar-Lagos (ongoing), and Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Aladja (Warri), which was also described as an ongoing project.

Others are the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway, the new Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi line in Niger Republic and the Abuja-Itakpe and Aladja-Warri Port and refinery/Warri new harbour.

Construction work is currently ongoing on some of the rail projects, while others are new projects, as physical construction work had yet to start on them.

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had explained that the Lagos-Kano line (ongoing), which would be connected from the Ibadan end of the Lagos-Ibadan railway, would cost about $5.3bn.

On January 9, 2021, Amaechi declared that the construction of the Ibadan to Kano line would commence once the Chinese government approved its $5.3bn loan to Nigeria, as the Federal Government had given approval for the contract.

He added, “The moment I announced that the Federal Government had awarded a contract of $5.3bn to CCECC (China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation) to construct Ibadan-Kano, people assumed the money had come in; no.

“We have not got the money, which is a year after we applied for the loan. We have almost finished the one of Lagos-Ibadan. If we don’t get the loan now, we can’t commence.”

Meanwhile, a few of the rail projects had come under criticism, as many Nigerians and groups had faulted the locations where the projects were sited.

An example is the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi in Niger Republic, which on January 11, 2021, the Federal Government announced that it signed a $1.96bn Memorandum of Understanding with Mota-Engil Group for the construction of the standard gauge rail project.

Amaechi signed on behalf of the Federal Government, while the Managing Director, Mota-Engil, Antonio Gvoea, signed on behalf of the contracting firm.

The $1.96bn rail line connects Nigeria and Niger Republic, as the new railway corridor, located in Northern Nigeria, would run through three states.

The states include Kano, Jigawa and Katsina and the 283.75km rail line would go through the territory of Niger Republic as far as Maradi.

This particular project had been greeted by widespread criticism. The Pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere, for instance, said many Nigerians were against the move by government to construct the rail line.

Afenifere’s Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, told our correspondent that it was unfortunate that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was more interested in constructing a project outside Nigeria than in developing bad roads within Nigeria.

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