• Saturday, September 30, 2023
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Nigeria leaps into AfCFTA with $3.2bn Eastern Rail Project, Bonny deep seaport

Pic.4. Inauguration of Eastern Rail Line Rehabilitation Project in Port Harcourt (1)

Nigeria on Tuesday flagged off three major projects worth about $3.2bn to serve as a major booster to the country’s participation in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The three projects – Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge railway, Bonny Deep Seaport and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt – were flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari, who said the railway project will particularly reactivate economic activities along the Eastern corridor greatly affected by insecurity like other parts of the country.

Up to 85 percent of the rail project cost would be sourced through loan while the government would contribute the remaining 15 percent as a counterpart funding.

On the other hand, Bonny deep sea port and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt are being developed through direct investment by a conglomerate led by CCECC Nigeria Limited with a total investment portfolio of US$700Million.

The projects come at a time Nigeria struggles to close its huge infrastructure deficit and seeks a major role in AfCFTA headquartered in Ghana.

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At a virtual ground breaking ceremony, Buhari raised optimism that the three projects conceived to be integrated in their operations will boost nationwide transport infrastructure and railways.

The three projects will serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and export as well as support imports into the hinterland of the country through the new deep seaport in Bonny Island.

“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 transshipment of cargo and freight locally, across the West African sub-region and in the Continental Free Trade Area,” the president noted.

“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.

“The sum of the socio-economic and environmental benefits of these projects includes creation of massive employment locally. There will be further utilization 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 Masterplan,” he further explained.

The Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway reconstruction project comes with new branch lines to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State and is expected to resuscitate the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern railway corridor of the country.

‘‘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.”

Authorities anticipate that in addition to anticipated employment boost, the projects would drive further utilization 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 Masterplan.

Buhari also assured that in planning this project, prudent use of resources has been given top priority.

He particularly urged industrialists, manufacturers and businesses within the zones to take maximum advantage of this infrastructure in planning for expansion and building new factories.

At the event, Minister of Transportation Rotimi Ameachi said upon completion, trains on the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway will run at 60 – 80 kilometers per hour Kph and 80 – 100 kilometers per hour Kph for freight and passenger respectively.

Ameachi also disclosed that the Bonny Deepsea 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, Gas distribution, as well as transportation, logistics centers and ancillaries.