By Haruna Salami
The Senate at its plenary on Wednesday resolved to call on President Bola Tinubu to upgrade Eastern Rail Line (traversing Port Harcourt to Maiduguri) from Narrow Gauge to Standard Gauge Rail.
The resolution was sequel to a motion to that effect sponsored by Senator Victor Umeh (Anambra Central) and co-sponsored by 34 other senators across the geo-political zones.
Umeh, in the notion noted that the Eastern Rail Line which serves 4 geopolitical zones of South South, South East, North Central and North East, runs from Port Hacourt, through Enugu, Markurdi, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri, is the longest and one of the oldest rail lines in Nigeria.
He said in 2017 the Federal Government got a loan of $6.8 Billion (US Dollars) for Standardization and modernization of the Nigerian railways network.
According to him 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, which have been completed or nearing completion and operational with new coaches.
Unfortunately, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line remains the only Narrow Guage rail line in Nigeria, he said.
He observed that in April 2022 the Federal Government awarded a failed contract sum of $3.2 million for rehabilitation and reconstruction of a Narrow Gauge rail line instead of Standard Gauge rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri “which has been vandalized, abandoned and overgrown with weeds and trees”.
The motion which was overwhelming supported by the senators was described by the Senate President Godswill Akpabio as “a national, patriotic for the entire country” saying the rail line can “serve more than half of the country”.
Akpabio recalled how he used the rail in those good old days to travel to Port Harcourt, adding “what is worth doing is worth doing well and communicate Senate position to Tinubu”.
Speaking with journalists after plenary, Umeh expressed happiness that the motion was overwhelmingly supported by senators from all the geo-political zones.
He expressed the hope that the present Tinubu government with the renewed hope agenda will modernize the rail line and boost the economy of that corridor.