The projects include a line which would largely parallel the existing 1067mm-gauge railway from Port Harcourt via Aba, Enugu and Lafia to Jos, with a new section from Jos to Bauchi, then follow the existing railway to Gombe before heading east on a new alignment to Biu and then north to Maiduguri. This project would entail 550km of new construction.

A second 1669km north-south line is proposed running along the eastern side of Nigeria from Maiduguri via Yola, Jalingo, Obudu, and Ikom to Calabar. Another line would run west from Calabar via Uyo to Aba.

There is also a proposal for a 707km line from Ngala on the Cameroon border via Maiduguri and Damaturu to Ngura where it would then follow the alignment of the existing narrow-gauge line to Kano.

Another north-south line is proposed in northwestern Nigeria. This 408km railway would run from Ilela on the Niger border via Sokoto and Jega to Kontagora.

Nigeria's transport minister Mr Idris Umar says the consultant will be asked to confirm the viability of the rail projects, produce an environmental impact assessment, and identify sites for stations and business and economic activities along the corridors.

The projects are part of Nigeria's 25-year strategic railway development plan which targets areas with strong economic potential such as mining, petrochemicals, mineral deposits, and agriculture, as well as providing connections to airports and state capitals.

"Within the next 25 years, government will put in more effort to ensure the development of areas through government funding and public-private partnership arrangements," Umar says.