The Federal Government has asked Nigerians to prevail on the National Assembly to approve the $30 billon loan proposal that was submitted to them last year by President Muhammudu Buhari to fund key policy programmes and reflate the economy.
Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, made the call at the North Central edition of the Town Hall meeting organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The minister noted that the railway sector is supposed to get $6.1 billion from the package for the building of standard gauge railways across the country.
He said the loan for the sector had been approved by the Chinese government, but was being delayed by the refusal of the federal legislators to approve it.
He drew attention to the multiplier effects of the project if the loan was approved. He said: “Ask the National Assembly to kindly approve the borrowing plan sent to them.
As citizens of this country, please help us to ask them to approve the plan. “China has already approved the loan, the only thing limiting us is the refusal of the National Assembly to approve the plan. As citizens of Nigeria in the North Central, please help us ask the National Assembly to approve the plan.”
He said the Federal Government had secured $7.5 billion loan for the construction of standard rail gauge from Lagos to Kano. According to him, the loan was secured from a Chinese bank and the ministry is waiting for approval of the National Assembly to access the loan.
He said that $1.4 billion was for the construction of the rail gauge from Lagos to Ibadan while $6.1 billion would be used on Ibadan–Ilorin–Minna-Kaduna– Kano line.
The minister added that Kaura Namoda–Funtua rail line would be revived. He, therefore, urged Nigerians to impress it on the National Assembly to approve the loan for work on the project to commence.
He added that the central rail project from Itakpe to Warri would be completed before the end of 2017, while narrow gauge line from Ilorin–Minna would also commence during the year.
Amaechi said plans were under way to connect Abuja to other parts of the country through the central line at Warri, while the Jos Inland Port would be completed in June, this year.
He said that a Lagos- Ijebu-Ode-Ore-Benin- Asaba-Agbor-Onitsha- Sapele-Yenagoa-Port Harcourt-Uyo and Calabar coastal rail line would also be constructed.
He said that work on the Eastern rail flank linking Aba to Port Harcourt, Makurdi, Enugu and Jos, would commence in June.
The minister said that Ekiti would be linked by rail through Osogbo and would run to Ilorin, Minna and Kano. He said that the ministry had sought approval to purchase more coaches and locomotives for the Abuja-Kaduna light rail.
Amaechi, who said he would first speak in his capacity as the former Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation that midwifed the election of the present administration, told the audience the time for excuses were over.
“We will not disappoint Nigerians, if anyone tells you we will, that person is deceiving you. Although, you won’t believe it if we tell you that we are also suffering, just because we are ministers.
“I think the message you want us to hear is that things are difficult and I can say government has heard you. But we need to correct certain wrong impression they are giving you.
“We knew when we took over that there were challenges. As chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, we knew there was corruption, we saw how people were carting money away in bags, but many of you didn’t believe me when I said that.
You will recall that I started the issue of missing $29 billion and then the arguments began and up till now, we don’t know what happened. Even if it was $10 billion and it was recovered, just imagine how far that would have helped us today. “But we are no longer going to complain about the challenges we met in office.
Don’t forget that we are not Jesus Christ; we didn’t promise we would solve our problems in one year, otherwise you would have given us one-year mandate.
But you gave us four years, so wait till that four years to complain.” In his contribution, Minister of State for Mineral Development, Hon. Abubakar Bwari, explained that the Federal Government was committed to the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Mills, pointing out that an audit of the company is being currently undertaken after which interested investors would be invited to make bids.
He explained that government could not hand over the project to its initial developers because the consortium that built the project came from the old USSR and is no longer under one entity.
On her part, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, put the inflation rate at 18 per cent. She advised Nigerians to reduce their over-dependence on imported goods as a way of bringing down the high rate of foreign exchange. According to Ahmed, it is necessary for the people to shun imported foods like wheat and patronize locally grown rice.
Others at the event include the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, his counterpart from the Water Resources Ministry, Alhaji Suleiman Adamu, Professor Isaac Adewole (Health), Aisha Abubakar (Industry, Trade and Investment).