By Patience Danjuma
The Federal Government is in talks with Transnet for the nation’s railway concession after General Electric (GE) handed the leadership of the consortium to the South African firm, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said on Sunday.
Last week, GE said it was withdrawing from the railway concession in line with its strategy to exit the transportation business.
The firm said on Thursday that it had handed over the leadership of the consortium chosen to run the rail concession to Transnet.
Speaking in Abuja weekend, the Minister said, “We are in talks with Transnet. When we conclude, we will sign the concession agreement and they will rehabilitate the entire 3,500 kilometres of railways.”
The Minister earlier said on Thursday in Lagos that GE’s pullout from the concession was not a setback for the project.
GE won a contract last year to manage Nigeria’s narrow-gauge rail network in partnership with three other companies, namely SinoHydro of China, Transnet, and APM Terminals.
They signed an agreement with Nigerian authorities in April to proceed with the interim phase of the narrow-gauge concession that is expected to grow freight haulage capacity in the country ten-fold to 500,000 metric tons annually.
The concession aims to cover about 3,500km of existing narrow-gauge lines from Lagos to Kano and from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
Economic growth in Nigeria has been hampered for decades by its dilapidated rail network, built mainly by British colonial rulers before independence in 1960.
Nigeria, which has one of Africa’s biggest economies and is the continent’s top oil producer, is seeing slow growth after emerging last year from its first recession in a quarter of a century which was largely brought on by low crude prices from late 2014.