The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved advisers to negotiate with General Electric (GE) towards concessioning the railway.
Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi said this to State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Amaechi was with the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed and Minister of Mining and Steel Development Kayode Fayemi
He said: “For the transport sector, I’m sure you are aware of an attempt to concession the Railway to General Electric (GE). Council approved the advisers that would sit with GE as our experts to negotiate.
“The narrow gauge railway will assist the agriculture, mines and steel development ministries in the transportation of extracted minerals. We are rehabilitating at no cost to government the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri route, which includes Port Harcourt, Aba, Umuahia, Enugu, Makurdi, Jos, Gombe, Bauchi to Borno.
“Then Lagos to Kano will include Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Ilorin, Kano, Funtua, Zaria and to Kaura Namoda – we are rehabilitating all of them.
“It is essentially to encourage freight movement. We have over 30 million worth of freight on the Lagos-Kano route for which presently we are moving slightly above 100 tonnes. While the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri route is currently moving nothing, but we are anticipating 11 million tonnes that can be moved from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.”
According to him, the rehabilitation will encourage movement of cargos and passengers .
He said GE will rehabilitate and invest on other railway infrastructure.
“GE is proposing to manage (the railway) for 25 years to recover their investments. Nigerian government has not agreed and that is what our advisers will sit with GE to agree,” he added.
The advisers, he said, included African Finance Corporation (AFC).
The council approved N30 billion intervention fund for mining exploration.
Fayemi said the fund, to come from 1.68 per cent of the Federation Account, will focus on mining exploration.
He said: “FEC ratified the President’s anticipatory approval for Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to qualify to access the national resources fund.
“You will recall that in August, FEC approved the roadmap for growth and development of the mining sector.
“In recognition of Mr. President’s campaigns promises to Nigerians and consistent with his statements on diversification, particularly in agriculture and mining, council approved N30 billion intervention fund for the mining sector. It will be highly focused on exploration. Exploration is the heart of mining, if you don’t search, you won’t find.
“You have heard all sorts of talks about how rich Nigeria is in mineral resources but the quantity, quality, the geological prospectivity has been a challenge because we have neglected the sector for such a long time.”
He said there was need for investment grade geological data, if Nigeria must attract mining investment.
According to him, smaller countries, such as Burkina Faso, spend averagely $300 million a year on exploration.
He added: “This is why council approved this for mining and this is significant because this is the accessing of natural source development fund, which has been made 1.68 per cent of the federation account. It is an equivalent of the ecological fund and the Education Trust Fund.
“It is meant primarily for agriculture sector, mining sector and the water resources sector. And this will cover exploration primarily but also research and development in partnership with our universities. It will also cover security and mining in partnership with the ministries of Interior and Defence and the Department of State Service (DSS) just to tackle the menace of illegal mining. It will also support small scale miners with grants,” he stated
The council, he added, stressed the importance of inter-ministerial coordination with ministries of Transportation, Power, Works and Housing, Environment on safer mining practices and Ministry of Health to help build a multi-sectoral focus on mining and encourage private sector investment in the sector.
He said the government was negotiating with sovereign investment on mining to access private capital to mining and the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
The guidelines, he said, would be ready in a month.