2022: Year of positive projections

The Federal and Lagos State governments hope to continue on the trajectory of delivering legacy projects that would deepen inter-modal systems in the transportation sub-sector, Year 2021 ended on a high note for the transportation sector at the national level with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, assuring Nigerians that the projections for the sector in 2022 were not mere promises, aimed at cornering cheap votes ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Speaking in Abuja on the eve of the New Year, Amaechi said more projects, especially the controversial Kano-Maradi standard gauge, with a spur to Kaduna State, would be delivered by December.

Last week, Amaechi met with the project’s contractor – Mota Engil, a Portuguese concern, and its financial advisors in Germany, where the finer details of the project aimed at making Nigeria’s ports attractive and a destination of choice for landlocked nations in North and Central Africa were discussed.

He told Nigerians that more ambitious and legacy infrastructure was being embarked upon not to curry political favours from Nigerians but to ensure that the nation continued to move in the right direction in terms of capital projects.

But the success of the Kano-Maradi line itself is contingent on the successful completion of another, for which funds are being sought by the government. This is the Ibadan-Kano standard gauge, which is the third and final; LOT III, in what is the modernisation agenda of the Western Line, a major plank of the 25 years Strategic Masterplan of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, which runs its full term in 2027.

Amaechi’s optimism is against the threats which the 2022 budget, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari last Friday, constituted to the transportation subsector.

The National Assembly in the budget slashed the allocation to the Ministry of Transportation by N12.6 billion. This flies against the logic of providing more for the ministry to enable it to deliver on all ongoing rail modernisation projects.

Amaechi who had appeared before the joint committee of Senate and House of Representatives on Land and Marine Transport had said the N147.9 billion allocated to the Ministry this year is not enough to address the challenge before it.

Defending the allocation, Amaechi had told the joint committee that the objectives of the proposal are to consolidate the government’s achievements on land transport, where the delivery of modern standard gauge rail lines, has continued to elicit positive reactions from Nigerians. He said the budget would help the Ministry consolidate on all ongoing projects, complete and deliver modern railway services that will become an effective alternative transport system for economic growth for the citizenry.

It is not the first time Amaechi would be faced with the grim reality of paucity of funds. Even despite appropriating N156.6 billion to the Ministry in 2021, the Minister said only N138, 967,747,631 representing (88.73 per cent) was released out of which N113,324,587,384 has been utilised as of October 25, 2021.

“In addition, the sum of N358,799.999 was appropriated for Overhead expenditure out of which N269, 099,999 26 was released.

“The sum of N185, 690,572.33 of the released amount was expended as of October 25, 2021,” he stated.

Amaechi said: “The Ministry is proposing a total capital budget of N147,931,691,294. And the overhead of 5358, 799,998 in the 2022 budget.

It is however cheery that while expressing reservation on the unilateral cuts and additions to the executive projections, by the National Assembly, to the assented bill, President Buhari, had clearly stated that he would soon send an amendment to the lawmakers indicating that he needs more money especially to deliver on railways which he described as critical to the success of his administration.

Besides the Kano-Maradi line, prioritized by the administration, the Amaechi led Ministry also hoped to deliver on the rehabilitation of the rotted Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge (Eastern Line), funded directly from the Ministry’s budget.

Other projects on which work is expected to commence based on the availability of funds are the Ibadan-Kano standard gauge, from which the Kano-Maradi line would be oxygenated, and the Lagos-Calabar Coastal line, for which funds are being sought. Also included on the list is the modernisation of the Eastern line, as the government is seeking funds for the standard gauge for the Eastern line, while various spur lines, aimed at achieving the administration’s dream of linking all state capitals by rail, are being aggressively pursued.

Source: The Nation

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