Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said the Lagos-Calabar rail project would cost Nigeria $11.1 billion.
The transport minister mentioned that the federal government was constructing the Kaduna-Kano rail line from the budget while still “negotiating the loan for Ibadan to Kaduna because the plan is Lagos to Kano.”
”So far, the federal government has laid out plans for the construction of Lagos-Calabar at $11.1 billion, Ibadan-kano at $5.3 billion for single track and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri at $3.02 billion for the reconstruction of narrow gauge,” said Mr Amaechi. ”It earmarked $12 to $13 billion for standard gauge approved by the president with additional spurs, Abuja-Itakpe at $3.9 billion in addition to the central line; and Lagos-Ibadan completed at $2 billion.”
In a statement on Friday, Mr Amaechi added that rail projects were built for economic growth, not ethnic biases.
He identified “politicising railway” development as one of the major challenges hindering the government’s effort to stimulate the economy.
Speaking as a guest lecturer at the Annual Public Lecture of the Department of Economics at the University of Lagos, the minister added that transportation was responsible for driving nations’ economies.
”It is a key element in driving the development of economies all over the world, and it creates possibilities for other sectors; therefore, you can’t even create employment if you don’t create logistics,” he further explained. “Nigerians are too ethnically conscious. You think first as your ethnicity before you think as a Nigerian. Ethnicity is putting pressure on the economics of railway construction. What you hear is, ‘I’m a Yoruba man, I’m an Hausa man, I’m an Igbo man.”
Mr Amaechi pointed out that “the Yoruba man is happy that we have done Lagos-Ibadan,” and the moment “you do railway up to Enugu, the Igbo man would be happy.”
“I call it the politicisation of railway construction. Railway is fuelled by economic activities. It’s not fuelled by tribe. What determines a railway construction is economics, how many tons of cargo can be conveyed,” the minister explained. “Ethnicity is not the way to go. Those who fan the embers of ethnicity are those who were benefitting from the government in the past but are no longer benefitting from the government.”
Mr Amaechi also said financing was another challenge of railway development as Nigerians keep complaining about loans.