Amaechi who stated this while appearing before the Senate Committee on Land Transport on Tuesday says the China Exim Bank was ready to loan Nigeria $1.5 billion for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, but approval was needed before any agreement is signed.
The Minister of Transport also promised that the foundation of the Lagos-Ibadan segment of the Lagos-Kano rail line will be ready before the first quarter of this year ends. He said:
“In the first quarter of 2017, the foundation of the Lagos-Ibadan segment two of the Lagos-Kano rail line project will be laid. The implication here is that we will start the Lagos-Ibadan rail line before the end of March.
“Our target is to commence from the Apapa seaport down to Ogun and then to Ibadan. That is our plan. The counterpart funding is ready, but don’t forget that we are borrowing the money from China. The China Exim Bank is processing it. Our 15 per cent is ready; so, we are waiting for China Exim Bank. They have managed to release and approve $1.5bn for the Lagos-Ibadan line.”
It is also envisaged that segment three of the Lagos-Kano rail project, which is the Kano-Kaduna stretch, as well as the first phase of the coastal railway line Lagos-Calabar, commencing from Calabar to Port Harcourt with extension to the Onne Deep Seaport will commence after the conclusion of the negotiation of a financing loan agreement.
“The National Assembly needs to give us approval for the borrowing plan so that we can commence work. We can’t sign the loan agreement with China unless there is an approval from the National Assembly.
“What the National Assembly has approved is the counterpart funding, but we need the approval to borrow the remaining money. If you look at $6.1bn in naira, and we are paying 15 per cent, you will know that the remaining amount is coming from China and until we have approval, we cannot do anything.
“Even now, the China Exim Bank has approved $1.5bn for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line. We are not able to sign the loan agreement because we need the approval of the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR) had expressed fear that the planned concession of the railway system by the Federal Government could lead to loss of jobs of no fewer than 15,000 of its members.
Amaechi had at an International Transportation Conference in Abuja said an American company, General Electric (GE) would take over the management of NRC under a concession plan
The President-General of the union, Mr. Saidu Garba, speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday said the concession “will also retard the economy instead of growth’’.
He, therefore, advised the Federal Government to reverse the planned concession so as not to worsen the nation’s economy.