Mu’azu Sambo, minister of transportation, says work on the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line has been suspended.
According to a statement issued on Saturday, he spoke during an inspection tour of the project in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital.
He said the suspension was due to insecurity and vandalism of railway properties along the corridor.
Sambo said the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC), the contractor handling the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the project, had complained of attacks on its workers along the Abia state axis.
“I am very displeased by these acts and I condemn it in strong terms,” the minister said.
“In the history of Nigeria, no administration has invested more in rail infrastructure like the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I call on the media and the judiciary to collaborate with the ministry to ensure that these economic saboteurs are not only exposed but prosecuted and sentenced speedily to serve as a deterrent to others.
Sambo also refuted reports being circulated that funds meant for the eastern rail line were diverted to other projects, describing it as “fake news”.
“The progress made so far is from 15 percent of the counterpart funding by Nigeria while the 85 percent to be provided by foreign partners is still negotiated,” he added.
In 2020, the federal executive council (FEC) approved the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line valued at $3 billion.
The rail line is expected have new branches — from Port Harcourt to Bonny and from Port Harcourt to Owerri.
President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed hope that the completion of the eastern narrow gauge railway project would revive “the once-vibrant eastern railway corridor, and raise the country’s economy to the world stage”.