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Upgrade Eastern rail line to standard gauge, Senate urges FG



Senate has called on the federal government to upgrade the Eastern rail line (traversing Port Harcourt to Maiduguri) from narrow gauge rail to standard gauge rail.
The upper legislative chamber also called on the federal government to suspend the purported planned rehabilitation of the outdated narrow gauge rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
Rather, it advised the government to make arrangements for the proper funding of the construction of standard gauge rail in the Eastern rail line and acquisition of modern coaches.
The Senate, therefore, mandated its Committee on Land Transport to ensure that all the five geo-political zones within the Eastern rail line corridor benefit from the ongoing railway standardization and modernization programme of the federal government.
These resolutions followed a motion titled: “Urgent need to upgrade the Eastern Rail Line (traversing Port Harcourt to Maiduguri) from Narrow Gauge Rail to Standard Gauge Rail,” sponsored by Senator Victor Umeh (LP Anambra Central) and co-sponsored by 33 other Senators during plenary on Wednesday.
The Senators, who sponsored the motion, are those from the South East, South South, North Central, North West, North East and some others from the South West, even though the rail corridor does not traverse the South West.
Leading debate debate on the motion, Senator Umeh noted that the Eastern Rail Line which serves five geo-political zones of the South South, South East, North Central, North West and North East, runs from Port Harcourt, through Enugu, Markurdi, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri, is the longest and one of the oldest rail lines in Nigeria.
He pointed out that a functional railway system in Nigeria would help to reduce vehicular traffic on our roads and save same from constant dilapidation; noting that the Eastern Rail Line is the only direct link from Maiduguri to Port-Harcourt Deep Sea Port for export processing activities.
Senator Umeh also observed that the federal government resolved in 2017 to modernize and standardize the Nigerian Railway system by building Standard Gauge Rail Lines and the acquisition of modern coaches both for passenger movement and goods across the Country.
According to him, “in furtherance of this objective, the Federal Government embarked on modernization of the following rail lines: Abuja-Kaduna, Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri, Lagos-Ibadan, Kaduna-Kano and Kano Maradi in Niger Republic; noting that modernization and standardization of almost all the above mentioned rail lines have been completed or nearing completion.”
“In April 2022, the Federal Government awarded a failed contract sum of $3.2 million for rehabilitation and reconstruction of a Narrow Gauge Rail Line (instead of Standard Gauge Rail Line) from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, which has been vandalized, abandoned and overgrown with weeds and trees,” he disclosed.
The lawmaker that not only that the project failed, but the Chinese contractors partnering with the Federal Government on the project who were expected to provide 85% of the expected funding programme, abandoned the Project without injecting any funds into it.
He urged that the Federal Government should as a matter of necessity, national interest and the resultant anxiety of excluding the four geo-political zones, which the Eastern Rail Line covers, maintain a common developmental programme for the country, by taking immediate steps to build Standard Gauge Rail Line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
While suggesting that the Federal Government should consider involving Public-Private Partnership, PPP to ensure that modernization and standardization of the Eastern Rail Line is achieved, the lawmaker regretted that the Federal Government was missing a huge amount of revenue by exclusion of the Eastern Rail Line in the ongoing railways standardization and modernization programme.
All the Senators that contributed to debate on the motion, agreed on the need to upgrade the Eastern Rail Line (traversing Port Harcourt to Maiduguri) from Narrow Gauge Rail to Standard Gauge Rail, and therefore, unanimously approved all the prayers.
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