The federal government on Wednesday said the pledge to complete the narrow guage Eastern railway corridor from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt before the end of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is no longer feasible.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, stated this while fielding questions from State House reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, had said that the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line would be delivered before the end of the tenure of the present administration
Recall that President Buhari had two years ago performed the groundbreaking of the $1.96 billion railine project meant to further stimulate economic activities in 14 states it covers.
But speaking on it during the post-FEC briefing, Sambo said financing the project had become a challenge as the federal government had not been able to obtain the foreign counterpart funding embedded in the project, making it impossible to fund it as envisaged.
He said the project was being funded currently through the 15 per cent counterpart funding from the budget.
He said: “The question relating to the promise to deliver the eastern line narrow gauge before the end of this administration; now, the eastern line is the line from Port Harcourt-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 per cent will be funded through foreign loan, while 15 per cent will be the counterpart funding for the national budget. Since that approval, we have not been able to obtain that 85 per cent foreign loans for this project.
“We have been funding it through the national budget on the basis of the 15 percent counterpart funding of the federal government. And therefore, funding has been a major challenge for this project.”