Completion of $1.96b eastern rail corridor not feasible, says FG
Assures on Second Niger Bridge
The Federal Government, yesterday, said its promise to complete the narrow gauge eastern railway corridor before the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is no longer feasible.
Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, gave the indication while fielding questions from newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari had, two years ago, performed the groundbreaking of the $1.96 billion rail line project, saying it would stimulate economic activities in the 14 states it covers.
Then Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, had said the Port Harcourt/Maiduguri line would be delivered before the end of Buhari’s tenure.
According to Sambo, financing the project has become an issue, as the Federal Government has not been able to obtain the foreign counterpart funding embedded in the project, making it impossible to fund it as envisaged.
His words: “On the eastern line narrow gauge before the end of this administration, the truth is that if there was a promise to deliver this line before the end of this administration, this promise is no longer feasible. The contract was approved on the premise that 85 per cent will be funded through foreign loan, while 15 per cent will be the counterpart funding from the national budget.
“Since that approval, we have not been able to obtain that 85 per cent foreign loans for this project. We have been funding it through the national budget on the basis of the 15 percent counterpart funding of the Federal Government.”
MEANWHILE, the government has restated the determination of Buhari to complete the second Niger Bridge before the leaving office on May 29, 2023.
This is coming against the backdrop of positive reports from commuters using the East-bound axis of the new bridge, indicating that motorists are having smooth drive across since it was opened a week ago.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, stated this while fielding question from newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, job on the new bridge is almost complete, but for the disruption occasioned by the sit-at-home order being observed in the South East.
Fashola said the sit-at-home directive observed on Mondays delayed the work pace, as the contractors lost many man-hours. The minister, however, said the remaining work on the Obosi and Asaba sides of the bridge were progressing according to plan, noting that the project, despite the delay, would be completed and commissioned before the end of the present administration on May 29.
“I am certain that the Second Niger Bridge will be completed and commissioned before the end of this administration. The work remaining to be done on the main bridge are just road markings, signs and fittings. It is completed, if I may say; hence, it is being put to temporary use now.
“From the Asaba end of the bridge, you can see the stockpiling of sand and because it’s a marshy area, after sand-filling, you allow the land to dry. So we are doing the pre-fabricated stockpiling and soon the work will be completed,” he said.
Also fielding questions on the dredging of the Calabar Port, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, blamed litigation for stalling the project, but announced that Buhari directed his ministry and that of the Justice to see that the issues were resolved amicably.
On his part, the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, blamed some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as well as some individuals in Rivers State for stalling the Ogoni clean up through litigations.
He was reacting to allegations by the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) against the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) charged with implementing the problematic Ogoni Clean-up in Rivers of slow pace of work as well as embezzlement.