By Emmanuel Daudu
Since 1985, Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line was abandoned, now, here comes the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari Flaging off rehabilitation and reconstruction of the rail lines.
President Muhammadu Buhari today Tuesday 9th of March, 2021 at the flag- off of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line, said the ceremony was to mark the commencement of the implementation of another important national infrastructure which consists of three projects.
“First is the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow gauge railway reconstruction project with new branch lines to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State. The project is with the objective of resuscitating the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern railway corridor of the country, Port-Harcourt – Maiduguri.
“We are further expanding it to achieve contemporary demand for transport in the North East and Southern geopolitical zones of the country. It is also designed to link other standard gauge rail lines under construction through the provision of transhipment centres. The funding of the railway is through a loan to fund 85% project cost and the Federal Government contribution of 15% as counterpart funding,” he stated.
The President further stated that “the second and the third projects are the Bonny deep seaport and a Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt that are to be constructed through direct investments by our Chinese partners and international financing agencies.
“These projects will serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and export as well as support imports into the hinterland of the country through the new deep seaport in Bonny Island, Rivers State.
“This improved port is designed to be a regional and international transport hub. In line with the global trends, the Railway Industrial Park will have the capability for processing exports of raw materials with value addition and also export of locally made goods.”
Buhari noted that “in planning this project, prudent use of resources has been given priority, as, by this endeavour, Nigeria will retrieve the old narrow gauge that has been lying in neglect for years and bring it to full functional state commensurate to a National railway service at a rational price.
“The country’s aspiration for nationwide transport infrastructure and railways is significantly enhanced by these three projects that were conceived to be integrated into their operations.
“The Port Harcourt – Maiduguri railway will translate to reactivation of economic activities along the Eastern corridor, which has been greatly affected by insurgent activities and serve as a stimulus for industry and trade.
“The connection of the railway to a new seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt is designed to increase the viability and boost transhipment of cargo and freight locally, across the West African sub-region and in the Continental Free Trade Area,” Buhari stated noting that the “sum of the socio-economic and environmental benefits of these projects includes the creation of massive employment locally.”
He further explained that there will be further utilization of local contents and technology transfer, increase in internally generated revenue and would serve as a fulcrum for the achievement of the Federal Government planned Integrated Development Masterplan.
Bonny port, railway industrial park direct investment by CCECC worth $700m ― Amaechi
While delivering his welcome address, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi said “the Eastern narrow gauge railway is one of the transport infrastructure established in the pre-independence period and played a significant role in the development of agriculture and industrial sectors in the colonial era and immediate post-independence year up till 1985 when it became unfit for purpose as a result of the general neglect and divestment suffered by the Nigerian railways.
“The effort of government at the rehabilitation of this rail line in year 2009 – 2012, did not achieve the desired outcome, partly due to inadequate funding and incompetence of some of the contractors employed. The rail line, therefore, remains unserviceable.”
He explained that “the need for a functional rail line on this Eastern corridor persists and remain compelling as the supply chain for products and services on this corridor vanishes and articles and items such as petroleum products, iron and steel, minerals, livestock and poultry products availability were reduced giving rise to the high cost and affecting the manufacturing and agro-allied industries. The Federal Government, therefore, focused on its revival.
“While the railway project is to be co-financed by a loan from a syndicate of Chinese financiers with Federal Government contribution of 15% project cost, the Bonny Deepsea port and Railway Industrial park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by the conglomerate led Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of US$700Million. This investment gain can be attributed to the unrelenting effort of the Ministry.
“Upon completion, trains on the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway will run at 60 – 80 kilometres per hour Kph and 80 – 100 kilometres per hour Kph for freight and passenger respectively.
“The Bonny Deepsea port has a container terminal of 500,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) per annum capacity and 100,000 DWT (Deadweight tonnage) Berth. The Railway Industrial park, Port Harcourt would be supported by necessary infrastructure (Power, Water, Waste Disposal, ICT, Gas distribution) as well as transportation, logistics centres and ancillaries” the Minister stated.