Buhari flags off Port Harcourt- Maiduguri rail rehabilitation

...Other projects- Bonny Deep Seaport, Rail Industrial Park

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday performed the ground-breaking ceremony to commence the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt- Maiduguri narrow gauge railway.

The President also flagged off construction of the Bonny Deep Seaport and a Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt, which he said “are to be constructed through direct investments by our Chinese partners and international financing agencies.”

Performing the exercise through a virtual means, the President disclosed that the railway reconstruction project which now includes new branches to Owerri in Imo State, and Damaturu, Yobe State, would be funded 85 per cent through a loan, and the Federal Government’s counterpart funding of 15 per cent.

He added that, while the project aims to resuscitate the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern railway corridor of Nigeria, further expansion of the project would be done to meet new demands for transport in the North East and Southern geopolitical zones.

Buhari expressed confidence that the projects would serve as great support for supply chain network for domestic and export needs, with the Railway Industrial Park backing the processing of exports of raw materials with value addition.

He noted that “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.”

In that regard, the President urged “…industrialists, manufacturers and businesses within the zones to take maximum advantage of the infrastructure in planning for expansion and building new factories to join in raising Nigeria’s economy to the global stage and reaffirm our leading role in Africa.”

Considering how the projects would support job creation, Buhari said that “In addition, there will be further utilization of local contents and technology transfer, increase in internally generated revenue and would serve as a fulcrum for the achievement of the Federal Government planned Integrated Development Masterplan.”

In his speech, the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said that the railway project was part of a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Nigerian Railway network to meet transport infrastructure needs.

Amaechi disclosed that “The Eastern narrow gauge railway is one of the transport infrastructure established in the pre-independence period and played significant role in the development of agriculture and industrial sectors in the colonial era and immediate post-independence year up till 1985, when it became unfit for purpose as a result of the general neglect and divestment suffered by the Nigerian railways.”

According to the Minister, government’s effort at rehabilitating the rail line from 2009 to 2012 was not fruitful, partly due to inadequate funding and incompetence of some of the contractors deployed for the project.

He said that the need for resuscitating the Eastern rail corridor remained highly significant to enable the supply chain for products and services effective, to move all categories of goods including petroleum products, iron and steel, minerals, livestock. He said that would reduce cost and encourage the revival of manufacturing and agro-allied industries.

According to Amaechi, “while the rail project is co-funded by loan from a syndicate of Chinese financiers with Federal Government contribution of 15% project cost, the Bonny Deepsea port and Railway Industrial park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by the conglomerate led Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of US$700Million. This investment gain can be attributed to the unrelenting effort of the Ministry.”

He said that on completion of the rail project, trains on the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway will run at 60 – 80 kilometres per hour (Kph) and 80 – 100 kilometres per hour (Kph) for freight and passenger respectively.

The minister also disclosed that “The Bonny Deepsea port has a container terminal of 500,000 TEU (20 foot equivalent unit) per annum capacity and 100,000 DWT (Deadweight tonnage) Berth. The Railway Industrial park, Port Harcourt would be supported by necessary infrastructure (Power, Water, Waste Disposal, ICT, Gas distribution) as well as transportation, logistics centres and ancillaries.”

He also made known that in the expansion of the railway network, the rail line connection from Enugu to Awka- Onitsha and Abakaliki is undergoing the necessary feasibility studies and preparation of conceptual design.

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