By Johnbosco Agbakwuru,
The Federal Government on Wednesday said that the promise to provide train services to the Eastern corridor before the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is no longer feasible due to lack of funds.
The former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had before he resigned from the Buhari’s cabinet to contest for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, promised that the government would at least provide narrow gauge to the Eastern Corridor before the end of the administration May 29, 2023.
But his successor, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, while fielding question from State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, said that realisation of any such promise was not possible.
Recall that 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.
Amaechi, as the then Minister of Transport, had said that the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line would be delivered before the end of the tenure of the present administration.
But Sambo said financing the project has become an issue, explaining that the federal government has not been able to obtain the foreign counterpart funding embedded in the project, making it impossible to fund it as envisaged.
Asked whether the promise to extend the railway service to the Eastern corridor before the end of the Buhari’s administration, will still be feasible, he said:
“The eastern line is the line from Port Harcourt to 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 loans 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.