Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation, has urged the national assembly to approve the federal government’s borrowing plan so as to begin the construction of rail projects in the country.
The minister said the China Exim Bank was ready to loan $1.5bn to Nigeria for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line but approval was needed before the agreement can be signed.
Amaechi made this known on Tuesday in Abuja when he appeared before the senate committee on land transport.
The minister also said the foundation of the Lagos-Ibadan segment of the Lagos-Kano rail line will be ready before the end of the first quarter of 2017.
He said: “In the first quarter of 2017, the foundation of the Lagos-Ibadan segment two of the Lagos-Kano rail project will be laid. The implication here is that we will start the Lagos-Ibadan rail line before the end of March.
“Our target is to commence from the Apapa seaport down to Ogun and then to Ibadan. That is our plan. The counterpart funding is ready, but don’t forget that we are borrowing the money from China. The China Exim Bank is processing it. Our 15 per cent is ready; so, we are waiting for China Exim Bank. They have managed to release and approve $1.5bn for the Lagos-Ibadan line.
“It is also envisaged that segment three of the Lagos-Kano rail project, which is the Kano-Kaduna stretch, as well as the first phase of the coastal railway line Lagos-Calabar, commencing from Calabar to Port Harcourt with extension to the Onne Deep Seaport will commence after the conclusion of the negotiation of a financing loan agreement.
“The National Assembly needs to give us approval for the borrowing plan so that we can commence work. We can’t sign the loan agreement with China unless there is an approval from the National Assembly.
“What the National Assembly has approved is the counterpart funding, but we need the approval to borrow the remaining money. If you look at $6.1bn in naira, and we are paying 15 per cent, you will know that the remaining amount is coming from China and until we have approval, we cannot do anything.
“Even now, the China Exim Bank has approved $1.5bn for the Lagos-Ibadan line. We are not able to sign the loan agreement because we need the approval of the National Assembly.”