We signed MOU for preliminary processes for railway network, says NDDC

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We signed MOU for preliminary processes for railway network, Says NDDC

The Niger Delta Development Commission has made a U-turn, saying it truly signed a Memorandum of Understanding on a $15b rail project.

A statement signed by the Chairman, NDDC Governing Board, Lauretta Onochie, on Friday, had said the MoU was with Atlanta Global Resources Inc for the construction of rail project across the Niger Delta- from Lagos to Calabar – was done “without her knowledge and without the authorisation nor consent of the Board.”

However, a separate statement signed by Director, Corporate Affairs, NDDC, Ibitoye Abosede, on Friday night and made available to GbaramatuVoice, said the MoU was truly signed at a Public Private Partnerships summit in Lagos on Tuesday.

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“The Niger Delta Development Commission appreciates the need to be seen; to be accountable, and transparent, as it collaborates with its stakeholders in the arduous task of developing the Niger Delta region.

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“At the Public Private Partnerships, PPP, Summit, which we organised in Lagos on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with a United States-based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc., AGRI, to build a railway network that will connect the nine states of the Niger Delta region,” the statement read in part.

Ibitoye explained that the foundational process of the MoU signing may have been misconstrued by some persons to mean that the NDDC had signed the Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract.

“We have been inundated with enquiries over what is ordinarily one of the preliminary steps necessary for the actualization of a partnership arrangement with the private sector.

“All we signed at the PPP Summit was a basic MOU to commence the preliminary processes of feasibility and viability of the rail project. It did not include any agreement on details.

“It is only after the preliminary studies that the financial appraisals will be done, and then the civil engineering procurements and the locomotive hardware will be considered.

Ibitoye explained that Atlanta Global Resources Inc deals with financing for Industrial products, infrastructure projects, agriculture equipment, capital equipment financing etc, and that the firm was recommended by a “reliable” US financial institution, especially for the deployment of US-produced locomotives.

The NDDC said it was aware that a partnership agreement of a massive project such as a railway network involves many international and national financial protocols.

“It has many ramifications at the highest level of government. It is also not unaware of the Federal Government contract of 2021 for rail line construction, however, the proposed network covered by the MOU is on a different alignment.

“Obviously, many things will be involved and it comes in the mould of the NLNG train 7,” the statement said.

Again, the Commission said the ICRC and the Nigerian Railway Corporation, as well as the Ministry of Transport will be part of the negotiations, adding that EPC contractors and hundreds of other international consultants will be involved.

“We are also aware that there must be sovereign guarantees which can only be granted by the Federal Government, after which it will seek the approval of the National Assembly.

“What we signed on April 25 is simply the opening phase that will determine how far we will go, but it definitely showcases how interested the international partners are in tapping into the Niger Delta region. They are swarming in droves. This indicates that we are looking at a bright and prosperous Niger Delta from the prism of the PPP.

“We expect that there will be challenges, especially at this initial stage, but that will not discourage us in any way. Understandably, going public to celebrate our little success is attracting bigger investors and interests. Out of ten, one or two might be successful to the benefit of the region”, it said.

The statement explained that the prospects of realising the rail network are “very good and we are confident that we will succeed ultimately,” it said, adding that the current Board and Management of the NDDC have resolved to do things differently so as to effectively drive sustainable development in the Niger Delta region.

“To give effect to this, we decided to use the PPP model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programmes,” it said, urging its stakeholders to give necessary support to ensure the success of the project.

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