President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday launched the $3.2 billion rehabilitation and reconstruction of Port Harcourt– Maiduguri eastern narrow gauge railway project, Bonny Deep Sea Port and the Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt, to be executed with 85 per cent loan and federal government’s 15 per cent counterpart funding.
The three projects will be co-financed with loan from a syndicate of Chinese financiers.
The rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt– Maiduguri railway project, Bonny deep Sea Port and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by the conglomerate led Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of $3.2 billion.
Performing the virtual groundbreaking ceremony of the three projects yesterday, Buhari said the railway project, when completed, would reactivate the dormant economic activities on the eastern corridor.
He said: “The funding of the railway is through loan to fund 85 per cent project cost and the federal government contribution of 15 per cent as counterpart funding.”
According to him, the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt–Maiduguri railway line will reactivate economic activities along the eastern corridor.
The president said the country’s aspiration for nationwide transport infrastructure and railways would be enhanced by the three projects conceived to be integrated in their operations.
‘‘The connection of the railway to a new seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt is designed to increase the viability and boost trans-shipment of cargo and freight locally, across the West African sub-region and in the Continental Free Trade Area.
‘‘The sum of the socio-economic and environmental benefits of these projects includes creation of massive employment locally. In addition, there will be further utilisation of local contents and technology transfer, increase in internally generated revenue and would serve as a fulcrum for the achievement of the federal government planned integrated development master plan,” he stated.
Buhari urged Nigerians, especially industrialists, manufacturers and businesses within the zones, to take maximum advantage of the infrastructure in planning for expansion and building new factories.
He added that the projects, when completed, will raise Nigeria’s economy to the global stage while reaffirming its leading role in Africa.
He said the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway reconstruction project with new branch lines to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State, would resuscitate the once vibrant railway transportation in the eastern railway corridor.
He said: ‘‘We are further expanding it to achieve contemporary demand for transport in the North-east and Southern geopolitical zones of the country. It is also designed to link other standard gauge rail lines under construction through the provision of trans-shipment centres.”
According to him, the Bonny Deep Sea Port and the railway industrial park are to be constructed through direct investments from Chinese partners and international financing agencies.
He said the three projects would serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and export as well as support imports into the hinterland through the new deep sea port in Bonny Island.
‘‘This improved port is designed to be a regional and international transport hub. In line with the global trends, the Railway Industrial Park will have the capability for processing exports of raw materials with value addition and also export of locally made goods.
‘‘In planning this project, prudent use of resources has been given priority, as by this endeavour, Nigeria will retrieve the old narrow gauge that has been lying in neglect for years and bring it to full functional state commensurate to a national railway service at a rational price,’’ he said.
Buhari, who requested the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, to cut the tape and unveil the plaque for the projects on his behalf, assured the nation of prudent use of resources in executing the projects.
Earlier, Amaechi had said the Bonny Deep Sea Port and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by a conglomerate led by Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of $700 million.
‘‘The Bonny Deep Sea Port has a container terminal of 500,000 TEU (20 foot equivalent unit) per annum capacity and 100,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage) Berth.
‘‘The Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt, would be supported by necessary infrastructure including power, water, waste disposal, ICT and gas distribution as well as transportation, logistics centres and ancillaries,’’ he added.
On the railway, he said upon completion, trains on the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri eastern narrow gauge railway would run at 60-80 kilometres per hour and 80-100 kilometres per hour for freight and passenger respectively.
Amaechi stated that his ministry was working in line with the president’s directives to implement the Nigeria railway modernisation project and expand the railway network.
‘‘In this regard, the rail line connection from Enugu to Awka-Onitsha and Abakaliki is undergoing necessary feasibility studies and preparation of conceptual design,’’ the minister said.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja, Sunday Okobi and Kasim Sumaina in Port Harcourt