By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari will leave Abuja for South Africa today to participate in the Forum on China/Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg where he will ask China’s President Xi Jinping to fund rail and power projects urgently needed to diversify an economy hit hard by a plunge in oil prices.
The meeting would be a continuation of his interaction with Jinping which began in New York during the last General Assembly of the United Nations, UN.
The President would be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema; Minister of Transportation, Chubuike Amaechi; and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah to the forum which would commence on December 4 and end on December 5.
A statement by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, stated that during the meeting in New York, President Buhari had indicated to Xi Jinping that “he wanted China to re-commence stalled rail projects under new terms that would see China providing nearly all the financing required.”
The statement added that “of particular interest is the coastal railway project stretching for 1402 kilometres linking Lagos in the West with Calabar in the East; a project that is expected to be financed with 12 billion U.S Dollars Chinese loan and which will create about 200,000 jobs.”
Another rail project that will be up for renegotiation is the $8.3bn Lagos-Kano standard gauge modernization project, of which only a segment, Kaduna-Abuja has reached completion stage.
Outside from railways, President Buhari is also expected to discuss ways of kick-starting the 3,050 MW Mambila Power Station, considered to be a strategic project initiated in 1982 but has not taken off.
Adesina revealed that the Chinese President expressed the willingness of his country to finance the whole project through a special loan agreement.
The president is expected back to Nigeria on December 5.