Ilorin—Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said, yesterday, that the Federal Government had secured $7. 5 billion loan for the construction of standard rail gauge from Lagos to Kano.
Amaechi made this known in Ilorin at the North Central Town Hall meeting held in Ilorin for the people of Kogi, Niger and Kwara. According to him, the loan was secured from a Chinese bank and the ministry is waiting for approval of the National Assembly to access the loan.
He said that $1.4 billion was for the construction of the rail gauge from Lagos to Ibadan, while $6.1 billion would be used on Ibadan–Ilorin–Minna-Kaduna–Kano line. The minister added that Kaura Namoda-Funtua rail line would be revived.
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to impress it on the National Assembly to approve the loan for work on the project to commence. He added that central rail project from Itakpe to Warri would be completed before the end of 2017, while narrow gauge line from Ilorin–Minna would also commence during the year.
Amaechi said plans were underway to connect Abuja to other parts of the country through the central line at Warri, while the Jos Inland Port would be completed in June, this year. He said that a Lagos-Ijebu-Ode-Ore-Benin-Asaba-Agbor-Onisha-Sapele-Yenagoa-Port Harcourt-Uyo and Calabar coastal rail line would be constructed.
He said work on the Eastern rail flank linking Aba to Port Harcourt, Makurdi, Enugu and Jos, would commence in June. The minister said that Ekiti would be linked by rail through Osogbo and would run to Ilorin, Minna and Kano. He said that the ministry had sought approval to purchase more coaches and locomotives for the Abuja-Kaduna light rail.
He reiterated the determination of the Federal Government to rehabilitate the Nnamidi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja. According to him, the runway was built to last 20 years and has lasted 35 years and it is dangerous to allow planes to land there without putting things in good shape. Amaechi said the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled Federal Government did not promise to fix Nigeria’s problem within a year.
He said that the people should wait till the end of four years before they could assess the government. He said: “We did not promise you that those challenges will be solved in one year; if we promised you that, you would have given us one year.”
“You gave us your mandate for four years, so you have to wait till the end of four years,” he said. He accused the National Assembly of holding the Federal Government back from fixing infrastructure problems and creating jobs by failing to approve its borrowing plans. According to him, if accessed, the loan will enable the government to embark on the revitalization of rail projects which will create more jobs for Nigerians.
On her part, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, put the inflation rate at 18 per cent. She advised Nigerians to reduce their over-dependence on imported goods as a way of bringing down the high rate of foreign exchange.
According to Ahmed, it is necessary for the people to shun imported foods like wheat and patronize locally grown rice. In his remarks, Governor of Kwara, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed, called for synergy between the states and Federal Government to fix infrastructure. According to him, the issue of decayed infrastructure was of great concern to those in the region.
The meeting was attended stakeholders, including traditional rulers, labour leaders, students, women societies, artisans and association of persons with disability.