The Federal Government has disclosed that delivering the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Rail Line during the life time of the current administration is no longer feasible due to its inability to secure foreign loans that will make 85 percent of the funds needed to execute the project.
Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, made the disclosure while responding to a question on what is hindering the administration from delivering the project before May 29, 2023 as earlier promised.
Sambo had in September while inspecting the work done so far, disclosed that the contractor in charge of the project, China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCEC) had often complained of incessant attacks on its workers around the Abia State axis of the rail corridor.
He had said government was left with no choice but to halt the ongoing construction of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Rail Line due to insecurity and incessant vandalism.
Recall, President Buhari had two years ago performed the groundbreaking of the $1.96 billion railine project saying that it would stimulate economic activities in 14 states it covers.
The benefiting states included the five South-east states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu as well as nine others – Rivers, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi and Gombe.
Then Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, had said that the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line would be delivered before the end of the tenure of the present administration.
According to Sambo: “The question relating to the promise to deliver the eastern line narrow gauge before the end of this administration. Now, the eastern line is the line from Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, it has been segmented in such a way that the first part of the works covers from Port Harcourt to Enugu.
“Now, the truth of the matter is that if there was a promise to deliver this line before the end of this administration, this promise is no longer feasible because, when the contract was approved, it was approved on the premise that 85 percent will be funded through foreign loan, while 15 percent will be the counterpart funding for the national budget.
“Since that approval, we have not been able to obtain that 85 percent foreign loan for this project. We have been funding it through the national budget on the bases of the 15 percent counterpart funding of the federal government. And therefore, funding has been a major challenge for this project.”