Acting President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, has officially launched construction work on a long-delayed, 156km, Chinese-funded railway from coastal Lagos to the inland city of Ibadan.
"Our ultimate goal is to restore a railway-using culture for both commercial and personal transportation," Osinbajo said at the ceremony on 6 March, adding that the target date for completion of the $1.5bn double-track railway was December 2018, reports Nigerian newspaper, The Guardian.
State-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) will build the railway.
The Lagos-Ibadan rail link is the first leg of a much longer railway stretching from Lagos inland to Kano. A multi-billion-dollar contract for this railway was first awarded to CCECC in 2006 under then-President Olusegun Obasanjo, but a lack of funds prevented the project from starting.
It was re-awarded to CCECC by another president, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2012, but again failed to start.
In 2016 China and the new Nigerian administration of President Muhammadu Buhari renegotiated the contract, packaging it with another proposed coastal railway from Calabar to Port Harcourt, for $11bn.
Nigerians will have to wait to see if, this time, the Lagos-Ibadan railway will finally be built.
In February Nigeria’s transport minister Rotimi Amaechi said a $1.5bn loan for the Ibadan link had been approved by China’s Export Import Bank, but that the bank was still processing it.
Alarmed at its rising national debt, China this month ordered banks to scrutinise loans more carefully. The Nigerian economy, meanwhile, has been hit by the fall in the price of oil, its main export.