By Henry Umoru – Abuja
The Federal Government said on Saturday that it has mapped out multiple railway projects and already captured in the N12.6trillion budget estimates as part of moves to achieve Intermodal Transportation in the country through the implementation of the 2021 budget.
Speaking on Saturday in Abuja when he appeared before the National Assembly Joint Committee on Transportation, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi explained that the projects are planned to commence by the year 2021 and financed through budgetary and counterpart fundings.
According to the Minister, part of the projects are the construction of 378km single track gauge standard gauge rail line traversing Kano- Katsina – Jibiya with a 20km extension to the commercial boarder town of Maradi in Niger Republic and a branch line, Kano – Dutse.
Amaechi said, “Reconstruction and rehabilitation of new the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri (Eastern Narrow Gauge Railways), Construction of the Central railway from Itakpe to Abuja and construction to a new Warri Port.”
Speaking on the funding, Amaechi explained that three of the projects i.e, Kano to Maradi, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and Lagos to Calabar rail lines, are to be funded from foreign loans already being negotiated for, by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.
According to him, the construction of Lagos – Ibadan Standard Gauge line has reached 92% completion but for the project to achieve full loan drawdown from co-financier (China EXIM Bank) and attain practical completion, construction of pedestrian and overpass bridges have to be completed.
Amaechi said, “These additional and extra works amounting to $656million which is to be financed 100% by the Federal Government of Nigeria, has been approved by the Federal Executive Council for implementation.
“The project contractor, Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited on the instruction of the Ministry, has commended work and reached advanced stages. Therefore, in order not to forestall the progress of implementation, the adequate fund needs to be provided in the 2021 budget proposals to facilitate its completion.”
The Minister told the Committee that the Ministry was proposing a total capital budget of N205.161billion for Land Transportation and N204.316billion for Marine Transportation as well as an overhead of N358.799million.
He said, “The aims and objectives of these proposals are to make significant progress on all ongoing projects and to complete and deliver modern railway services that would provide an efficient and cost-effective alternative transport system for economic growth and creation of job opportunities for the citizenry.”
Meanwhile, the Chairmen and members of the joint committees refused to interrogate the Minister on the budgetary proposals against the backdrop that the required documents were not made available to them before his presentation.
Specifically, Senator Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central), who chairs the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, said since documents containing the budgetary proposals were just made available to them by the Minister during his presentation, there was nothing they could do at that stage, adding, “These documents supposed to get to us as committees overnighting your Ministry at least 24 hours before presentation.
“Since you have failed to do so, we would have to peruse the documents very critically and reinvite you for another session, if required.”
Not happy with the development, Amaechi then openly instructed the Permanent Secretary and relevant Directors in the Ministry not to allow such things to happen again, adding, ” Please the Permanent Secretary and the relevant Directors on budgeting procedures and processes in the Ministry, should please always ensure that budget documents meant for presentation in the National Assembly, get to the concerned Committees, at least four days before the day of presentation.”
Senator Goje then adjourned the session.