$35 billion only for a functioning railway system?

$35 billion needed to build a functioning railway transportation system

The Ministry of Transportation, led by Senator Sa’idu Alkali, unveiled its ambitious plan to revamp Nigeria’s railway transport. However, the system will require a significant investment portfolio of $35 billion. The great reveal came amid the presentation and defence of N46.6 billion the ministry sought in the 2024 budget.

Speaking during the presentation, Senator Alkali put emphasis on the need for substantial funding for railways across Nigeria. He believes it will be necessary if the ministry has a shot at creating an integrated and efficient railway network.

The presentation was to the  Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Land Transport. And was primarily focused on outlining the plans to scale up the transportation and logistics value chain in Nigeria.

Despite the country facing financial challenges and dwindling revenue, the ministry believes adequate funding is necessary to connect vital industrial and agricultural hubs with an extensive railway network. They could be right though. There is a lot of data that backs up the positive impacts of efficient logistics and transportation on any economy.

Is the $35 billion necessary to get the railway system at a functioning capacity?

According to the minister, the funding gap is a critical challenge in addressing the essential needs of the rail infrastructure. Until things change, he believes it will continue to hinder the realization of an efficient and sustainable transport system.

The proposed investment aims to connect approximately 6,000 kilometres of Standard Gauge Railway. It will focus on rehabilitating the existing 3,505-kilometer Narrow Gauge Lines between the North, South, East, and West regions. This plan also involves connecting the oil and mineral resource zones, agricultural belts, and major ports, such as the Lekki Deep Sea Port.

The Minister stressed that securing funds from international development financing institutions has been challenging in recent years, affecting crucial projects like the Lagos – Kano, Kano – Maradi Railway Modernization Project, and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge.

To overcome these challenges, Senator Alkali appealed for an increment of the ministry’s budget to achieve these ambitious goals. He pointed out that a well-developed railway network is a catalyst for economic development, job creation, and enhanced transport connectivity.

As part of the ministry’s commitment to the vision, the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) in Zaria is set to undergo significant expansion. Expansion plans include infrastructure improvements, increased research efforts, and the completion of outreach learning centres in four geopolitical zones.

The ministry expects all of these to contribute to capacity building and knowledge dissemination.

In conclusion, Senator Alkali expressed gratitude to the Joint Committee on Land Transport for their cooperation and support. He reaffirmed the ministry’s unwavering commitment to transforming Nigeria’s land transport sub-sector for the benefit of all Nigerians.

The ambitious railway expansion plan aligns with the broader vision of bridging infrastructural gaps, supporting economic growth, and improving the standard of living for the Nigerian population.