By Ushang Ewa
Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbanjo says the country will finalise the negotiations for the Lagos – Calabar rail line in June, 2017 with the People’s Republic of China.
The project, Osinbanjo says has been negotiated downward to $11.117billion from $11.917billion, with Nigeria’s government providing its own portion of the funding for the project THISDAY reports.
Osinbanjo stated this at the unveiling of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project at the Nigerian Railway Corporation compound, Ebute-Metta, Tuesday, where he also noted that the national rail project would create 500,000 jobs with two rail tracks captured in the “incorporated 2016 and 2017 budgets.”
“(We have) already provided our portion for funding for the Lagos-Calabar route as well. We expect that negotiations with the foreign component of the funding will be finalised within the next three months,” Osinbanjo said.
“We have the entire Lagos Kano rail track as well as the Lagos Calabar railway track in the 2017 budget,” he added.
On job creation, he told Nigerians that an effective railway system “will confer many benefits on the society. Our ultimate goal is to restore a railway using culture for both commercial and personal transportation. We are confident that the national rail project will create up to 500,000 jobs. Aside, it will facilitate the movement of up to 3.2 million tonnes of cargo per annum.”
He said these efforts showed the will of the current administration to build a globally competitive economy with first grade infrastructure and pointed out that the Railway will “diversify the economy and enhance our export potentials. Several of our cities will become known as railway towns will boost economic activities within the railway lines that will eventually cut across the entire country”.
Furthermore, he explained that the new approach to the development of the rail sector is evidence the federal government supports the replacement of the 1964 railway acts with a legal framework that open railway projects in the country to greater private sector participation.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in June 2016 signed an agreement with the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar coastal railway line at $11.117 billion.
Under the agreement, the federal government was able to negotiate the price of the contract downwards by $800 million, stressing that although the contract was initially valued at $11.917 billion, it would now to cost $11.117 billion.
The first segment of the rail line comprises Calabar, Uyo, Aba and Port Harcourt. Other segments of the Lagos Calabar coastal rail line such as Otueke, Yenagoa, Ughelli, Warri, Sapele, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Ijebu Ode, Lagos, would be ready also within another two years Osinbanjo said.
However, the project developed controversy early in 2016 with disagreements over its inclusion in the appropriation bill pitching the National Assembly against the Executive with allegations of padding and misappropriation dominating national discourse.