The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday adopted a motion urging the federal government to upgrade the Eastern Rail Line (traversing Port Harcourt to Maiduguri) from narrow gauge rail to standard gauge rail.
The upper chamber also called on the government to suspend the purportedly planned rehabilitation of the outdated narrow gauge rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
The Senate’s resolutions were a sequel to a motion moved by Victor Ume, representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, during plenary. The motion was co-sponsored by 31 other senators.
The upper chamber called on the Federal Government to instead make arrangements for the proper funding of the construction of standard gauge rail on the Eastern Rail Line and the acquisition of modern coaches.
Moving the motion, Umeh said that the eastern rail line served four geopolitical zones: south-south, south-east, north-central, and north-east.
“This runs from Port Harcourt through Enugu, Markurdi, Jos, Bauchi, and Maiduguri is the longest and one of the oldest rail lines in Nigeria,” he said.
He said that a functional railway system in the country would help to reduce vehicular traffic on the roads and save them from constant dilapidation.
He lamented that the rehabilitation contract, which was awarded in April 2022 to the tune of $3.2 billion, has failed and been abandoned, even as the unacceptable narrow rail gauge has been overgrown with weeds and the tracks vandalised.
The lawmaker said that rehabilitation and reconstruction of a narrow-gauge rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri have been vandalised, abandoned, and overgrown with weeds and trees.
“Not only that the project failed, but the Chinese contractors partnering with the Federal Government on the project, who were expected to provide 85 percent of the expected funding programme, abandoned the project without injecting any funds.”
He urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of necessity and national interest, take immediate steps to build a standard gauge rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
In his contribution, Eyinnaya Abaribe, Senator representing Abia, said that “the issues are not new. This has been here since the 8th Senate. One of the biggest problems that we had was that no transport minister has been able to give a reason why, in the modernization of rail lines built by the colonial masters in Nigeria, only the eastern rail line has been ignored.”
He said that with the new administration of President Bola Tinubu, the Eastern Rail Line would be upgraded.
In his remarks, President of the Senate Godswill Akpabio said that the motion was “a patriotic motion that the Federal Government should take seriously.”