Boost for railway Modernization: China to provide additional funding

The Federal Government of Nigeria is engaging with the Chinese Government in bilateral talks to secure more funding for the ongoing railway modernization projects across the country.

The Minister of Transportation, Said Alkali, made this known on Monday while taking members of the National Assembly committees on land transportation on an oversight function along the ongoing Kano/Kaduna and Abuja/Kaduna rail lines.

“We are in Makarfi with the National Assembly members because it is their responsibility to oversee all ministries, departments, and agencies,” Alkali said. “They have seen the project for themselves, so when we get to the budget session, they will be able to speak to the issues they have seen firsthand.”

“This will make it easier for us to defend the ministry’s work on the railway modernization project,” he added. “The President is keen to ensure that these projects are completed and put into use, as transportation is an enabler of economic growth and a gateway to the nation’s economy. It is, of course, one of the eight priority areas of the President’s administration.”

On security measures, Alkali stated that the ministry and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) are working hard to prevent vandalism. “We are deploying major surveillance in conjunction with the security agencies to ensure that these properties are not vandalised,” he said.

On the connection of the Abuja/Kaduna/Kano line to the Dala inland dry port, the minister confirmed that it is already connected. “We have both the standard and the narrow gauge connected to the dry port,” he said. “Not long ago, I was at the Dala dry port to commission the freight from Lagos to Kano as a quick win on the already existing narrow gauge.”

The minister expressed satisfaction with the level of work but acknowledged challenges with funding. He said that the President has directed the Vice President to engage President Xi in a bilateral discussion on the financing of the Ibadan to Abuja and Kaduna to Kano segments.

Read also: FG Receives Second Batch of Nigeria Railway Engineering Graduates Trained in China

“The funding for the Kaduna to Kano segment has been released,” he said. “We are just trying to finalize the drawdown of the loan so that they will have the financing. The financing for the Ibadan to Abuja segment is also under discussion with the Chinese government.”

Senator Adamu Aliero, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, said the tour was an exercise undertaken by a joint committee of both the House of Representatives and Senate Committee on Land Transportation to inspect the construction of the rail line between Kaduna and Kano.

“We have just taken a ride from Kano to Makarfi. So far, we are impressed with what we have seen,” he said. “We have also seen a lot of dedication by the ministry and the contractor in trying to deliver the project on time. We understand that the deadline given to them is 2025 or 2026. But we are hoping that by 2025 if they sustain the tempo, they will be able to deliver.”

On challenges, Senator Aliero pointed out the issue of funding, which he said the committee intends to discuss with the Debt Management Office, the Minister of Finance, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Minister of Transportation to find a way forward.

“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that this project is completed on time,” he said. “We will lobby our colleagues in the National Assembly to ensure that this project does not suffer from inadequate funding. I would like us to speak more on funding because it has been the major challenge of this project.”

He commended the government for continuing the project it inherited and for completing the Lagos to Ibadan segment. He also noted that containers are now being transported from Lagos to Kano.

“The major part of the fund is coming from the China Development Bank,” he said. “And the federal government is only going to give 15% of the counterpart funding. We are optimistic that since the president has made it a priority, we will be able to deliver on time under the Renewable Hope Agenda.”

On the issue of vandalism, Senator Aliero said the National Assembly is considering legislation that would make it a criminal offense with severe penalties, including the death penalty.

Hon Mrs Blessing Onuh, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Land Transportation, corroborated the importance of railway transportation to the growth and development of the nation. She emphasized the need for adequate funding to complete the project on time.

“We have seen for ourselves the challenges they are facing,” she said. “We understand that the tracks are being stolen. We have resolved to go back and discuss further how we can review the contract and install anti-theft mechanisms to stop vandalism.”

The ongoing railway modernization program aims to link the country by the year 2026.

Source: The Sun

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