Nigeria’s railway projects have recorded a fresh setback as General Electric pulls out of Nigeria’s $2bn narrow gauge railway concession.
The company has handed over to South African Transnet SOC Limited, which deals in pipeline, port, and rail construction.
Newsnow investigation revealed that GE had pulled out from the deal a while ago, following the sale of its 111-year-old rail construction business, but the information was kept under wraps in government circles.
In April, Yewande Thorpe, head of communications, GE Nigeria, said the company signed an interim concession agreement with Nigeria phase for “light remedial civil and track repair works” on the narrow gauge rail line.
“Additionally, a joint operation will be established between the (GE-led) consortium and the Nigeria Railway Corporation with a supply of 10 locomotives and 200 wagons provided to augument the existing rolling stock in Nigeria,” she added via a statement.
All of that rail work is in doubt now, as GE, who led the consortium pulled out of the deal, handing reins over to Transnet, who recently recalled its Nigerian team.
Speaking at the 24th Nigerian Economic Sumit (NES24), Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s minister of transportation, said the concession has inched from one setback to the other.
“We met GE an GE told us that for 11 years, we have been begging the federal government to concession narrow gauge to us, and they have refused.
“And I told them, we would concession it to you tomorrow if you are ready. They said they are ready. Six months, we have finished all documentation, everything we need to do, GE slowed us down.
The president even fired the then DPP because he was becoming a clog in the process of ensuring that we succeeded. We were at the verge of concessioning, when GE transport… did it collapse or they sold it.
“You people are businessmen, I don’t want to say the one that they would say it affected the economy, but they are no longer there to deal with us.
“Then Transnet took over because Transnet was part of the consortium, and we met on Friday, and we were to meet today (Monday), but if you read your papers, they just fired the head of Transnet.
“So I said, what is this witchcraft? And they have now summoned the team back to South Africa. We have made progress, we are at the verge of completion. Today, we would have been looking at the draft agreement.”
The Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has made strong commitments to the rehabilitation of the Nigerian railways.