By Adelola Amihere
Despite Federal governments approval for the construction of a standard gauge rail line from Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri, the Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi is seeking yet the approval of its requests for the rehabilitation of the existing Port-Harcourt – Maiduguri Narrow Gauge at a cost of $3 billion.
Speaking at the weekend, the minister explained that getting approval for the rehabilitation of the already existing narrow gauge will ensure that economic activities begin on that axis, as against waiting to get a loan up to the tune of $12 billion for standard gauge line.
He said. “The president has earlier given approval for the construction of the standard gauge, the seaports in Bonny and Port-Harcourt industrial park. So, what we’ve done is, we need approval again.
“If we start pursuing the money to construct Port Harcourt -Maiduguri in the form of loan, we may not succeed. So, why not give us permission to do two things at the same time, while looking for the money for the standard gauge?
“Allow us rehabilitate the narrow gauge. That is, yank off what we have now, and replace them with new ones and that will cost us slightly below $3 billion which is easy to get and extend it to Bonny.
“The people are willing to build the seaport and Industrial Park with their own money.
“But if you give us that approval, $2 billion, there won’t be patch line to Owerri and Abakiliki because we are just going to repeat the old track lines. That is what is before the president and we submitted it last week and awaiting his approval”.
He explained that the delay in getting the approval is because the President prefers a standard gauge, but explained that financing such would be more problematic.
“So, why not at least rehabilitate the narrow gauge, remove the slippers, balance, tracks, replace them, rebuild the stations, extend to Damaturu in Yobe and extend to Bonny in Rivers State.