Wednesday 24th May, 2017
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MULTI-BILLION NAIRA RAIL PROJECT: Senate summons Amaechi over exclusion of South East

MULTI-BILLION NAIRA RAIL PROJECT: Senate summons Amaechi over exclusion of South East

·    Threatens to stop $5.85b Chinese loan
 
The marginalisation of the South East zone in appointments and pro­jects execution domi­nated proceedings at the Senate on Tuesday.
After chronicling the wors­ening plight of the Igbo under the present Federal Govern­ment, which reached a climax with the exclusion of the re­gion from the multi-billion na­ira rail project to be financed by a Chinese loan, the sum­moned the Transport Min­ister, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, to explain the ra­tionale behind it.
The South East is missing in the rail project which cov­ers the North, South West and South-South zones.
Indeed, the Senators at the plenary session on Tuesday threatened to suspend the ap­proval of the $5.85 billion loan from the China Exim Bank to execute the modernisation of the Lagos-Kano, Kano-Kaduna, La­gos-Ibadan and Lagos-Calabar rail segments of the project.
On April 26, 2017, the Feder­al Government laid before the Na­tional Assembly a request seeking an approval of the $5.85 billion from the China Exim Bank to ex­ecute the gigantic project.
The resolution of the Senate was sequel to a motion spon­sored by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), tagged, “Outright Omission of Eastern Corridor Rail Line in the request for approval of Federal Govern­ment 2016-2015 External Bor­rowing (Rolling Plan).”
In his submission, Abaribe had noted with dismay the ex­clusion of the Eastern section of the rail segment, which has a link between the South East to the North Eastern parts of the rail line that was omitted from the loan request.
He wondered why the loan covers only the western section of the country, rather than in­cluding all sections covered by the nation’s rail lines.
Abaribe argued that since the Federal Government was bor­rowing to fund the project, all sections of the country should benefit from it.
The lawmaker observed that since there is a Railway Master­plan developed by the Ministry of Transport, there is no reason why such plan should not be re­ferred to in the current borrow­ing arrangement.
He cautioned that for the railway project to have a mean­ingful impact on the develop­ment of the country, it should cover all parts of Nigeria.
Abaribe warned that the ex­clusion of the Eastern section that links the four zones of the South-South, South East, North Central and North East and the key cities of Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Makurdi, Lafia, Gudi, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri, was inex­plicable and should be addressed by the Transport Minister.
The Deputy Senate Presi­dent Ike Ekweremadu, who sec­onded the motion, cautioned the Federal Government to de­sist from such seeming miscar­riage of justice against any sec­tion of the country.
He said: “The implication, therefore, is that any wrong done to any part of this country is a wrong to all of us and that has been the principle this Senate has operated since 1999.”
“I am aware that the Feder­al Government is committed to rehabilitating and upgrading the railway infrastructure in Nigeria since the Obasanjo administra­tion. Regrettably, from the incep­tion of that programme, the Fed­eral Government has an attitude towards the Eastern line of this country, namely, that that line is not profitable and so empha­sis has not been placed in fixing that axis.”
“That is why today, while we are talking about standard gauge in the Western line, the Eastern line still remains the old gauge. In 2011, the Federal Government awarded the contract for the re­habilitation of the Eastern line from Port Harcourt to Maidu­guri to three contractors in three segments. Till now, no work is going on in that axis.”
“The simple reason being that after they generated the ini­tial certificate to be paid, the gov­ernment deliberately refused to pay them so that the project will be stalled”.
In an attempt to fault Abar­ibe on his position on the exclu­sion of the South East in the rail project, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Transport, Sen­ator Gbenga Ashafa, said that the claims were inaccurate be­cause the zone was covered in the project.
To save the situation from causing disaffection among the lawmakers, the Senate Presi­dent, Ababakar Bukola Saraki, suspended further debate on the matter.
He informed the members that the leadership of the Senate was already engaging the Execu­tive arm on the matter.
Saraki therefore mandated the Senate Committee on Trans­port to invite Amaechi to give the details on the coverage of the rail line project.
Meanwhile, the Senate has threatened to sanction revenue-generating agencies over their fail­ure to submit their 2017 budget proposals to the National Assem­bly in line with the extant laws.
The Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, drew the attention of his colleagues to the abnormally during the plena­ry session yesterday.
He said it was wrong for the agencies to spend money that had not been appropriated by the legislature.
Na’Allah said that he intends to bring the issue to the floor as a motion so that Senators will un­derstand the implications and the need to assist the govern­ment to fight corruption.
Saraki condemned the prac­tice and ruled that the issue should be debated and a resolution taken by the Senate today.

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