December 3, 2015 / 7:00 AM / 4 years ago

Nigeria's Buhari to ask China's Xi for urgent infrastructure funding

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will ask China’s president at a summit this week to fund rail and power projects urgently needed to diversify an economy hit hard by a plunge in oil prices, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Buhari has already indicated to Xi Jinping that he wants to resume stalled rail projects under new terms that would see China providing nearly all the financing required which could total around $20 billion, spokesman Garba Shehu said.

Roads, railways and power plants are in dire need of repair, leaving Africa’s top oil producer ill-equipped to enact Buhari’s plans to boost the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Buhari and Xi will meet at the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit which begins on Friday.

“Of particular interest is the coastal railway project stretching for 1,402 kilometres linking Lagos in the west with Calabar in the east,” Shehu said, noting it is expected to be financed with a $12 billion loan and create about 200,000 jobs.

Last year Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that China Railway Construction Crop had signed a deal to build the railway, but the project has stalled since then.

Another rail project that Shehu said may be discussed involves modernising a rail line connecting the southern commercial hub of Lagos and Kano in the north, the second biggest city, which is expected to cost $8.3 billion.

Talks are also expected to involve the Mambilla hydro-electric power station which has not been developed despite having been first proposed in 1982.

“The Chinese president had informed President Buhari of the willingness of his country to finance the whole project through a special loan agreement,” said Shehu, although he did not disclose the proposed sum needed to fund the work.

Nigeria’s government has already said that a separate $25 billion fund, announced by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, will be set up to improve the country’s road, rail and power networks.

Buhari, who swore in his cabinet in November after a five-month wait, will be accompanied by the ministers of trade and investment, foreign affairs, as well as transport at the summit.

Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Louise Ireland

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