Nigeria is to go ahead with a plan to rehabilitate the narrow-gauge railway between Port Harcourt, on the Atlantic coast, and Maiduguri on the border with Chad, a distance of around 1,000km.
The plan was announced by Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transport, in September. On Wednesday, he told reporters that it had received official approval.
Amaechi said: "The Federal Executive Council has approved the award of contracts for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow-gauge railway, with new branch lines and transshipment facilities."
He added that the council had also approved the construction of a deep-sea port in Bonny and a railway industrial park in Port Harcourt.
According to the minister, the reconstruction of the railways would cost around $3bn. The industrial park is expected to cost $240m and the port $480m. These last two projects would be developed as public-private partnerships "at no cost to the federal government".
The port at Bonny will have a rail connection to the Port Harcourt line. Other connections will be built to Owerri, the capital of Imo State, and Kafanchan in Kaduna State.
In the past, the 1,067mm gauge line between Port Harcourt and Maiduguri was known as the "eastern line". The main and branch lines cover a distance of about 3,500km, and before it fell into disuse relied on a semaphore signalling system.
Image: Nigeria’s rail system is in need of renewal (Nigerian Railway Corporation)