The senate has summoned the minister of transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi has to appear before its joint committee on Land Transport and Local and Foreign Debts to explain the alleged exclusion of the eastern rail corridor in the rail modernisation scheme.
The invitation was sequel to a point of order raised by the deputy senate president, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu who alleged that the eastern corridor had been neglected in the rail development project.
Ekweremadu who said such a development was not good for the country had prayed his colleagues to prevail on the federal government to take steps to include eastern flank in the rail expansion project.
He alleged that less attention was given to the railway development on the eastern axis “which include Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Makurdi all the way to Yola to Maiduguri, passing through Plateau state and some parts of Nasarawa state including Delta.”
“I want to bring to the notice of the senate, the deliberate exclusion of the Eastern rail line in the ongoing construction/modernisation nationwide. This is not good for our country. It shows that some parts of the country are deliberately ignored.
“It was supposed to be for goods only, there was no arrangement for passengers but the tragedy is that the arrangement has collapsed and GE has withdrawn from the arrangement.
“If you recall, when we granted the permission for government to raise loan from China to develop the western axis running from Lagos to Kano, it was also of the understanding that once that approval is secured that the federal government will engage with the Chinese authorities to also secure loan to deal with the eastern axis running from Port-Harcourt.
“Today, the story has changed. Now what the Chinese authorities are being asked to do is to come and take over that axis and use their money to fix that axis and then recover their money over time.
“I believe is not fair on those of us that live in that part of Nigeria. In order to survive, there must be equity and fairness and any country running against this principle will be heading to disaster. It is believed that we have many of such opportunities in Nigeria but they should be spread across and that is the only way we can ensure the unity, peace and progress of this country.
“The minister of transport should appear before our committees on Land transport and Local and Foreign Debts to explain to us the plan they have for those who live in this part of the country,” he said.
In his contribution, the senator representing Delta South, Mr. James Manager, said no part of the country should be excluded and wondered why Amaechi who comes from the Niger Delta had chosen to exclude his place because of partisan consideration.
“We are talking of railway and you are excluding the business communities in Nigeria. When you talk about business in Nigeria, the East is key. The government has decided to exclude that part. This is one issue every Nigerian is interested in. I am from Delta State and I am sure that my state too will be excluded.
“Ironically, the minister of transport is from Port Harcourt. Local politics aside, he will return home after leaving office. We need to invite the minister to explain to the relevant committees why he has decided to exclude some parts,” he said.
Also speaking, the chairman of the committee, Mallam Shehu Sani who described Ekweremadu’s motion as “right” and “apt” the minister had earlier promised to include the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line in the ongoing borrowing plans.
However, he said the lack of commitment on the part of the federal authorities to pay attention to eastern part in the rail development programme was glaring.
“The motion raised by Ekweremadu is apt and right. It is now clear to us that there is no commitment to do that. That axis has a lot economic benefits to Nigeria. The withdrawal of General Electric is worrisome. Some of my colleagues in the committee appended their signature to the plan to construct Lagos to Kano rail line. But with this development, I am sure that they are regretting,” he said.
In his submission, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki said the federal government should be equity in the distribution of railway projects in the country.
The senate, thereafter, resolved to invite the minister for further explanation.
With Punch, Premium Times reports