NIGERIA – The Federal Government has started negotiations for the commencement of the construction of the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said.

Ameachi said the ongoing negotiations were between Nigeria and the Chinese government for the project that would stretch from Rivers to Borno State.

The rail line, according to Amaechi, will go through several states including Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Nasarawa, Rivers, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe.

The minister also stated that the Federal Government would continue its negotiations with Russia for the commencement of the Lagos-Calabar rail line project.

Ameachi stated that the railway projects were planned in a way that they covered all of Nigeria’s 6 Geopolitical zones.

 The port Harcout-Maiduguri line would cover the North East region while the Lagos-Calabar and the Lagos-Kano line serve the remaining 5 geopolitical regions.

The minister however noted that these rail projects required substantial amounts of money adding that if the government fails to secure enough funds for all the projects then it could as well borrow money to rehabilitate the existing lines.

Nigeria has a total of 3,505 km of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge lines and 507 km of standard gauge lines.

Years of neglect of both the rolling stock and the right-of-way have however seriously reduced the capacity and utility of the system.

The railway which at its peak used to transport over 11 million passengers annually was poorly maintained leading to a drop in the number of passengers to just 1 million.

Nigeria’s federal government has however recognized the importance of the rail network to the country’s economy and has embarked on an ambitious project to revamp its railway network.

This has led to establishment of over 600km of functional rail lines, and the government has committed to continue with the work of expanding the country’s rail network.