The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has disclosed that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with a United States-based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc (AGRI) to build a railway network that will connect the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
This agreement was reached at the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Summit which NDDC organized in Lagos on Tuesday, April 25, 2023.
In a statement signed by its Director, of Corporate Affairs, Ibitoye Abosede, the Commission warned that the foundational process may have been misconstrued by some persons to mean that the NDDC has signed the Engineering, Procurement and Construction, EPC, contract.
While appreciating the need to be seen to be accountable and transparent as it collaborates with its stakeholders in the arduous task of developing the Niger Delta region, the NDDC said all it signed at the PPP Summit was a basic MOU to commence the preliminary processes of feasibility and viability of the rail project.
The Commission denied adding any agreement on details.
The NDDC said it has been inundated with inquiries over what is ordinarily one of the preliminary steps necessary for the actualization of a partnership arrangement with the private sector.
Giving further clarifications, the Commission explained that it is only after the preliminary studies, that the finance appraisals will be done and then the civil engineering procurements and the locomotive hardware will be considered.
“For those who may not know, Atlanta Global Resources Inc deals with financing for Industrial products, infrastructure projects, agriculture equipment, capital equipment financing, etc. They came recommended by a reliable US financial institution, especially for the deployment of US-produced locomotives.
“The NDDC is aware that a partnership agreement of a massive project such as a railway network involves many international and national financial protocols. It has many ramifications at the highest level of government. It is also not unaware of the Federal Government contract of 2021 for rail line construction, however, the proposed network covered by the MOU is on a different alignment.
“Obviously, many things will be involved and it comes in the mold of the NLNG train 7. Again, the ICRC and the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, as well as the Ministry of Transport will be part of the negotiations. In addition, EPC contractors and hundreds of other international consultants will be involved.
“We are also aware that there must be sovereign guarantees which can only be granted by the Federal Government, after which it will seek the approval of the National Assembly.
“What we signed on April 25 is simply the opening phase that will determine how far we will go, but it definitely showcases how interested the international partners are in tapping into the Niger Delta region. They are swarming in droves. This indicates that we are looking at a bright and prosperous Niger Delta from the prism of the PPP.
“We expect that there will be challenges, especially at this initial stage, but that will not discourage us in any way. Understandably, going public to celebrate our little success is attracting bigger investors and interests. Out of ten, one or two might be successful to the benefit of the region.
“The prospects of realizing the rail network are very good and we are confident that we will succeed ultimately.
“The current Board and Management of the NDDC have resolved to do things differently so as to effectively drive sustainable development in the Niger Delta region.
“To give effect to this, we decided to use the PPP model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programs,” the Commission’s statement partly read.
The NDDC urged stakeholders to give the Commission the necessary support to ensure that all those involved will succeed in this venture.