The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said that the Kaduna-Kano railway project will be flagged off in two weeks.
Amaechi said this on Friday while featuring at the ministerial media briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
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The minister said about $380m had been paid to the contractor.
He said: “In the next two weeks or one-week plus, we should be launching and commencing immediately, the construction of Kano-Kaduna rail.
“The President will be launching it. The reason we are commencing immediately is because all the necessary contracts have been awarded.
“We have been waiting for too long for the loan now from China, it has not come. So, we decided to fund it from the Budget.
“We have already paid $280m to them. We are about to pay another $100m. That will be about $380m. Kano-Kaduna rail is $1.2bn.
“The moment you pay about $380m, you must have paid one-third of the project.
“We believe that by the time we get the loan, from the budget, we should have funded up between $500m and $600m so that we should be able to take the project nearly halfway before the fund will come.
“If we continue to wait for the loan, either from China or Europe, we may likely not complete it before we go.
“So, I made a decision as Minister in charge. I reported to the President that I would commence construction with our own fund and pending when the loan will fall through.”
The minister, who disclosed that the cancelled Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project would be presented again, added that the Lekki deep seaport would be completed before the end of the present administration.
Amaechi, who recommended that anyone caught engaging in vandalism of railway facilities in the country be charged with manslaughter, said the application of stringent laws would curb the habit that could cause train derailment and death of unsuspecting passengers.
He said: “You can imagine the number of people that will die as a result of that derailment.
“This is just because one selfish Nigerian is trying to steal track to make money.
“I think like other countries, I’m not saying that they should be killed because there’s poverty.
“But I’m saying they should be charged for mass manslaughter because people will die.
But again, they will tell you that manslaughter means that somebody died.
“If anybody dies, they should be charged for manslaughter. If nobody dies, they should be charged for stealing. That’s my view.”
He disclosed that the railway clips being frequently stolen were causing the country huge amounts of hard currency to replace.
He announced the decision to replace those being stolen with anti-theft clips which could not be opened or removed.