(Adds details, quote)
By Chijioke Ohuocha
ABUJA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - General Electric said on Thursday it has handed over the leadership of a consortium chosen to run a Nigerian rail concession to South Africa's Transnet after the U.S. company spun off its transport business.
"GE will be transitioning leadership of the International Consortium, selected to execute the Nigerian narrow-gauge railway concession, to Transnet," GE said in a statement
"This development is in line with GE's decision to exit the Transportation business from its portfolio."
A procurement process adviser told Reuters on Wednesday that GE had pulled out the $2 billion concession deal with the Nigerian government for two rail lines connecting northern cities to others in the south.
Fola Fagbule, senior vice president and head of advisory at Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), lead adviser to the procurement process, told Reuters that Transnet was in discussion to replace GE.
Transnet was not immediately available for comment.
GE said Transnet has been a trusted partner for several decades and that it has confidence in its ability and that of the other consortium members -- Dutch-based APM Terminals and China's Sinohydro Consortium -- to execute on the rail concession project.
Economic growth in Nigeria has been hampered for decades by its dilapidated rail network, built mainly by British colonial rulers before independence in 1960.
The concession aims cover about 3,500 km (2,200 miles) of existing narrow-gauge lines from the southwestern commercial capital, Lagos, to Kano in the north and from southeastern oil hub Port Harcourt to Maiduguri in the northeast. (Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Adrian Croft and Jane Merriman)