Amaechi: Africa’s first standard gauge line would have been Itakpe-Warri railway
Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, says the Warri-Itakpe rail line would have been Africa’s first standard gauge line if it was completed.
Amaechi said this during the ‘Next Level Presentation’ to signal the commencement of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign for the 2019 elections.
During his presentation, the minister said rail stations were built in the villages of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains.
He said: “The truth is that the country is compelled to make a choice between good and bad. When I was appointed the minister for transportation, the president warned ‘do not start new contracts, go and complete old ones’.
“We met Itakpe-Warri rail line which had been in existence for 34 years uncompleted; it would have been the first standard gauge line in Africa if it was completed.
“Based on the president’s instruction, I did a memo; I thought we will borrow money from China but the president refused. He said we should use our internal funds to execute the project.
“People saw me on social media on train service from Warri to Itakpe. I got to Warri 8pm because I was going from one station to the other—almost all the villages and most prominent members of the PDP made sure that train stations were in their villages.
“So, I am compelled to do those stations in villages of members of the PDP; it is okay; it is the instruction of the president that you must go and finish the old work.”
Commenting on PDP’s argument that it started the rail projects, Amaechi said Buhari made it clear while inaugurating the Abuja-Kaduna rail project that it was started by the government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“We completed it but two things are remarkable—we borrowed $500 million to start that project at the time oil was selling at $114 per barrel,” he said.
“We should not have borrowed; you mean this country could not have afforded 500 million dollars?
“I will show that we can. When I wrote a memo to the president and to the cabinet requesting that he should allow me borrow $500 million from China to buy locomotives and coaches for Lagos-Ibadan, the cabinet under the directive of the president refused.
“He(the president) said 500 million dollars; we can get from here and we are funding it from here; so we did and completed Kaduna to Abuja quickly.
“We spend N56million per month and we get N16 million; so we are augmenting for both rich and poor—N40 million per month under the directive of the president because he fears that the poor might not be able to afford it. So, everybody is using it.”