Those who live close to rail tracks in eastern Nigeria up to Port Harcourt have noticed what has been dubbed “roaring construction work” on daily basis along the rail track line.
The office of the current Minister of Transportation has since confirmed what is happening, saying construction of the rail link has since commenced.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze and some other loyalists of the former transportation minister and former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, have started beating their chests saying it has become clear that the project was never abandoned as was widely speculated, especially by those who wanted to rubbish the former governor before his people.
BusinessDay gathered that when the construction work got to Rivers State especially at the Elelenwo rail junction up to Mile One areas, some Amaechi loyalists began to make calls to the former minister to know whose job was being so seriously executed.
Eze said he found that it was the job awarded by Amaechi that was being executed. Eze, a onetime national publicity secretary of the defund New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP), who is now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said those accusing Amaechi of abandoning the eastern railway corridor project have turned out as mere mischief makers that he said deliberately feigned ignorance.
In a statement made available to the media, Eze attempted to correct the insinuation in some quarters that Amaechi abandoned the Eastern Rail Project. He said in 2021, the Federal Ministry of Transportation, under ex-governor Amaechi, gave a $3bn contract for the expansion of the country’s eastern railway, linking Port Harcourt with Maiduguri.
According to him, a major part of contract term include the restoration and renovation of the railway network between Port Harcourt and Maiduguri in northern part Nigeria.
Sources said the eastern railway network connects various cities in Nigeria’s eastern area, passing through 12 states. The project is said to include the building of additional branch tracks in addition to the growth of the current eastern railway.
China Railway Construction Corporation’s subsidiary China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) was said to be granted the contract for the project. Eze said this has the potential speeding up of Nigeria’s industrialisation and urbanisation by boosting resource development and employment along with the network.
He said the completion of track laying from Port Harcourt to Aba is a major milestone in the project which spans east to north.
The train project is designed to enhance regional trade and help Nigeria reestablish itself with a good rail network in West Africa. Experts say the bid to lead continent in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) would be a flop if Nigeria does not develop rail systems that connect to the sea ports to move goods in West Africa and Central Africa.
For the avoidance of doubt, Eze highlighted that in tandem with the vision of Amaechi, coupled with the foundation and ground work he put in place for completion of the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri Rail Project, the incumbent Minister of Transportation, Saidu Alkali, by November, 2023 reassured Nigerians that the Port-Harcourt -Maiduguri rail project would be completed accordingly.
According to the statement signed by the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to the minister, Jamilu Ja’afaru, the Minister of Transportation, Saidu Alkali, vowed to ensure the completion and full operation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail network soon.
The statement further explained that upon completion of the rail line, Nigerians would enjoy good trade, access market, and business places easily, and also boost agricultural production and its movement.
The statement highlighted that Akali expressed his resolve to ensure that the rail project is not only completed on time but also meets the highest international standards.
With this milestone development, Eze claimed that by this development, Amaechi has rubbished the erroneous insinuation in some quarters that he abandoned the Eastern Rail Project. “All things being equal this project will be achieved in our life time courtesy of this visionary leader.”