Senator Umeh urged for adequate funding of the rail system beginning from the 2024 budget.
The Senate has called on the Federal Government to suspend the purported planned rehabilitation of the outdated narrow gauge rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and make arrangements for proper funding of the construction of the rail line.
It also urged the Committee on Land Transport to ensure that all four Geopolitical Zones within the eastern rail line corridor, benefit from the ongoing railways’ standardisation and modernisation Programme of the Federal Government.
This call was contained in a motion on the “Urgent need to upgrade the Eastern rail line (traversing Port Harcourt-Enugu-Maiduguri) from narrow gauge rail to standard gauge rail,” sponsored by Senator Victor Umeh (LP, Anambra Central) and co-sponsored by 34 others.
Leading the debate, Umeh noted that the Eastern rail line serves four geographical zones of South-South, South East, North Central, and North East, thereby making it the longest and the oldest among rail lines in Nigeria.
While highlighting the advantages of a functional rail system which includes reducing vehicular Traffic on the roads, which will save it from constant dilapidation, Umeh urged the Federal Government to adequately fund the rail system beginning from the 2024 budget.
He recalled that the government of former President Muhammadu Buhari had borrowed USD 6.8 billion to standardise some of the nation’s rail lines, some of which were completed and some of which were almost finished.
The lawmaker stressed the need for the Federal Government to do the same with the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line.
“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.
“In 2017 the Federal Government borrowed a loan sum of $6.8 Billion (US Dollars) for Standardisation and Modernisation of the Nigerian Railways Network.
“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.
‘Modernisation and Standardisation of almost all the above-mentioned Rail Lines have been completed or nearing completion and operational with new Coaches, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri Line remains the only Narrow Guage Rail Line in Nigeria.”
Following the adoption of the prayers, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio urged the Senate Committee on Land Transport to make sure that the ongoing Federal Government railways standardisation and modernisation programme benefits all four geopolitical zones within the Eastern rail line corridor.