The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has reacted to criticisms by Nigerians against President Muhammadu Buhari’s led government borrowings to build infrastructure.
Amaechi while confirming Buhari’s bid to borrow less than N100 billion for the Kaduna-Kano standard gauge rail project, said he wondered why Nigerians lament on the administration’s borrowings when a whole of America even borrows in trillions of dollars.
He said: “I am happy Mr. president is doing what he wants to do and not listening to criticisms on this project because America is borrowing trillions of dollars and we are borrowing less than N100 billion and everyone is talking,” he said.
“I have announced that we will no longer wait for the loan but proceed with the Kano-Kaduna rail line because we have made some financial advancement from our budget, and we still have some money left in the budget.
The minister confirmed that the Kano-Kaduna rail project will commence in July pending loan approval by the National Assembly.
Amaechi made this known on Sunday while inspecting the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway ahead of the June 10 date set for the inauguration. Recall that the federal government last year asked the national assembly to approve a $5.3 billion Chinese loan request to execute the Ibadan-Kano standard gauge rail line.
The loan agreements caused concerns among lawmakers, but Lai Mohammed, minister of information, said there was nothing bad in borrowing if invested in infrastructure.
Speaking further on the loan approval, Amaechi said; “We will pay like one-third of the money this year before this budget will expire. When we get the loan, then we will continue from Ibadan to Kano because if we don’t finish from Lagos to Kano, it will make no economic sense.
“Once the loan is approved, the ministry of transportation would begin negotiation and construction on the route, while the loan is a preferred option in making development happen on the railway construction.
“The fact is that we are building these rail lines now that we have no money. Imagine if we did not construct the Lagos-Ibadan rail line at the time we had no money, we wouldn’t have been here now.
“If you check out the loans, they are not like other loans. Other loans are lent straight to the government, but we are paying straight to the contractors, and people are still not satisfied.
Amaechi further warned that there would be zero tolerance on anyone who tried to vandalise the standard gauge railway facilities, while offenders would be remanded in prison pending the replacement of the vandalised equipment.