Nigeria moved closer to implementing major infrastructure projects with a $600-million loan, which will fund a light-rail line in the capital, Abuja, as well as a government internet-connectivity project, and a $500-million loan, which will finance the construction of five airport terminals.
The African nation signed a $600-million soft loan with China's Export-Import Bank on Sept. 12. The funding includes $500 million for the 77.78-kilometer-long Abuja light-rail project, which will include new flyovers, bridges and underpasses. Contractor China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. is 25% complete with the rail project that will link Abuja's city center to the satellite towns of Nyanya, Kubwa, Maraba and Lugbe. Another line will extend from Kubwa to Nnmadi Azikiwe International Airport.
"The light rail in Abuja will improve transportation for all residents, especially the working class," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's finance minister, after signing the loan in Beijing. The financing, at 2% interest, is repayable over 20 years with a 2.5-year grace period.
More than 1.5 million people are expected to benefit from the project, which is set to be completed in 2015. Originally started in 2006, the rail system initially was set to be completed in 2013 in readiness for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but financing hiccups held it back.
The initial loan also includes $100 million to kick-start the stalled government information, communication and technology (ICT) expansion project being implemented by Galaxy Backbone Plc, a state-run agency. The project involves setting up and operating a unified ICT infrastructure platform for state departments and agencies.
Okonjo-Iweala says another $500-million loan will be signed in the coming weeks for the construction of five terminals for international-flight passengers, bringing the total funding to $1.1 billion. The new terminals at Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Lagos and Enugu will increase passenger traffic capacity to 50 million per year from the current 20 million per year. Nigeria also plans to add six new cargo terminals at airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Kano and Asaba.