…Project involves Bonny deep seaport, with loops in Awka, Abakaliki, Owerri
…Estimated to cost $15bn with loan from China
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday flagged off the reconstruction of much-awaited Nigeria’s Eastern Rail line, a 1,443 km narrow gauge rail line spanning from Port Harcourt in the South-South zone to Maiduguri in the North-East zone.
The project, to be handled by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) would cover a contract duration of 36 months, covering total route length of 2,044.1 km. The rail project would have 61 stations and loops. The track gauge is 1,067 mm narrow gauge. The design speed is 80 km/h single tract rail line.
The entire project involves reconstruction of the existing Port Harcourt – Maiduguri rail line, with building of Bonny Deep seaport in Bonny Island with rail connection, as well as building spurs at Awka, Owerri, and Abakaliki.
However, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation said, the government was beginning with the reconstruction phase. He said the Enugu – Abakaliki and Port Harcourt – Owerri connecting spurs are undergoing feasibility studies.
The rehabilitation of the rail line had been a major concern, especially as many in the South-East and South-South regions had seen its neglect as deliberate by the Buhari administration; whereas he had been busy building thousands of kilometres of rail lines in the North and South-West: Abuja – Kaduna; Lagos – Ibadan; Kano-Katsina-Maradi in Niger Republic, among others.
Negotiations for the construction of Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line project in Nigeria has been ongoing between Nigeria and the Chinese government. The flag off of the project as noted by the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is an indication that the negotiations may have been concluded.
Neither President Buhari who flagged off the project virtual from the Presidential Villa, nor Amaechi informed of the cost of the rail line rehabilitation project. In 2019, the project was seeking $15bn loan, which had been delayed due to lack of funds.
The Eastern rail line connects Port Harcourt, Rivers State in the Niger Delta region to Maiduguri (Borno State) in the North-Eastern region, near the border with Chad Republic.
According to Amaechi, the six geo-political zones are all covered. It will go through several states including Rivers, Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe.
Meanwhile the managing director of CCECC said the Eastern Rail reconstruction project would generate 10,000 jobs at construction, and 5,000 jobs at operation.
The Nigerian federal government had said it would continue its negotiations with Russia for the commencement of the Lagos – Calabar rail line project, an ambitious project that will pass through Akure, Benin with a spur at Agbor and Asaba and to Onitsha. It then continues to Ughelii, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar.