By Abimbola Fashakin, Abuja
The Federal Government is in talks with the management of General Electric (GE) Company over the planned concession of railway projects in the country.
As parts of the deal, GE is expected to repair 25 locomotives that have been in the country since the tenure of the late General Sani Abacha.
These disclosures were made in Abuja on Tuesday by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi after a meeting with the President of GE, Jeffrey Immelt.
General Electric is one of the five companies that have indicated interest in the proposed concessioning of the rail projects in the country.
According to Amaechi, “We are negotiating with GE to take over the narrow gauge in Nigeria. Narrow gauge is from Lagos to Kano, Funtua, and Yobe and from Port Harcourt to Borno heading to Yobe.
On the 25 locomotives, he said, “We are saying that between now and when the concessioning agreement will be finalized, we want to see if they can revive the 25 locomotives that we have. They should see if they can get it to work and work efficiently.
“The 25 locomotives to be revived were supplied by GE during the era of Abacha. What we are trying to do now is to see how we can maintain them and put them back to use to increase the capacity of the Nigeria Railway Corporation so that they can travel from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri as early as they want without having to spend four to five days before getting to their destination”.
When asked when the project will cost, he said: “I don’t know. Initially we had said $2billion but right now we cannot say if it’s less than that or above. We are however still at the level of talking”.
On the 72billion for counterpart funding for Lagos to Ibadan project, the minister said: “we have gotten the approval from China EXIM Bank and our counterpart funding is 72billion and China is contributing $1.5billion.
Amaechi also hinted that whoever gets the concession job will be in charge of the construction of the proposed Transport University.
Also speaking on the concession plan, the Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Fidet Okhiria said; “the concessioning is open, we advertised yesterday for people interested to show interest and as at yesterday, five companies including GE have shown interest and all the companies will be accessed based the pro-qualification requirements.
On Abuja-Kaduna rail line, he noted that before the end of March, new coaches will arrive to increase the frequency of movement.