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S-East Senators tackle Amaechi over omission of S-East, S-South from rail corridor

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By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—SOUTH-East Senate Caucus, yesterday, took a swipe at the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, over the alleged deliberate exclusion of the Eastern corridor of Nigeria’s rail lines from the proposed $5.8 billion loan from China Exim Bank by the Federal Government.

Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi and chairman, South-East Senate Caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe

In a statement yesterday, by chairman, South-East Senate Caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senators asked Amaechi to explain why the South-East corridor was scheduled for concessionaires to build while other rail line corridors in other parts of the country would be built with funds borrowed by the Federal Government which every part of the country would pay.

It would be recalled that Abaribe had last week raised alarm that the  South-East, South-South corridors were omitted in the $5.8 billion China Exim Bank loan sought by the Federal Government to develop rail lines in parts of the country.

Reacting to a press statement issued by the Federal Ministry of Transportation that the South-East zone was not omitted as alleged by the Senate, as Aba and Onitsha are among towns covered by the coastal railway corridor, Senator Abaribe, who sponsored the motion in the Senate said: “My motion is not only about the South-East, but about the second major railway corridor in Nigeria, built by the British, which covers South-South, South-East, North-Central and North-East.

“The corridor is from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, it covers over 100 towns and major cities, not about Aba or Onitsha, far from it. It industrialized many cities and gave jobs directly and indirectly to thousands.

“In addition, the letter from Mr. President seeking for expedited action on approval of the loan did not specify when the eastern corridor would be modernized.

“It said negotiations are on to get a concessionaire for the eastern line. In other words, while we borrow for the western line, we must wait to get some entity interested to concession the eastern line.”

Asked, why the railway corridor cannot wait for next phase as proposed by Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Abaribe said: “If it is our collective money saved out of our earnings, we can wait for the next season, but since it is collective debt, why don’t we endeavour to borrow enough and stimulate the growth of every region at the same period?

“Don’t you know that railways, more than any other infrastructure, is critical to the growth of the economy. It is a big catalyst for the creation of jobs and creation of new towns.

“Besides, all those on the over 100 towns and villages served by the eastern line would suffer double jeopardy by paying twice. One for the collective debt and also for the concession costs which would be borne solely by them.”

“What must be done now;      It is my candid view that the Federal Ministry of Transport should approach the Chinese Exim bank or any other source to raise the requisite funds to execute the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Railway Corridor; what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

“When the Federal Government constructs the standard gauge for Lagos-Kano and leave the Eastern Corridor empty, how do we convince Boko Haram and IPOB boys that they are not marginalized and excluded?”

 

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