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LAGOS: Nigeria has approached Standard Chartered Bank for funding of two rail projects, its Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said on Wednesday, after delays from Chinese lenders.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made upgrading transport networks and improving outdated power grids the pillar of his administration, with a view to boosting agriculture and other non-oil industries to cut dependence on dwindling crude revenues. But funding has been a major constraint.

Its parliament last year approved several billions of dollars in project-tied loans from the Chinese and other international lenders but funds have yet to materialize.

"We are actually waiting for the Chinese to give us the loan we applied for and they kept delaying us," he told reporters in Abuja. "Will we wait for them forever? The answer is no."

Nigeria has been negotiating a mix of loans from Chinese and European lenders to fund railway projects in the country.

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In July, Amaechi said Standard Chartered had agreed to fund $3.02 billion for the ongoing Port Harcourt-to-Maiduguri railway project. He also said at the time that Credit Suisse was expected to fund the Kano-to-Maradi line, which will connect northern states Kano, Jigawa and Katsina.

"We have gone to Standard Chartered Bank. They have not done financial closure but they have approved some level of funding for Kano-Maradi," the minister said.

Nigeria's poor transport and power networks have stymied economic growth for decades, holding back the distribution of wealth in Africa's biggest economy where 40% of people live below the national poverty line.

Amaechi said cabinet approved $187.7 million for contractors that will supervise the three or four rail projects in the works.

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