*Demands reasons for the discrimination
*Calls for immediate review of the project
By Williams Orji
Controversies have continued to trail the recent flag-off off for the construction of the Port Harcourt -Maiduguri Narrow Gauge rail line by the Federal Government.
The most recent voice in the rejection spree came from an Igbo socio-political organization, the World Igbo Peoples Assembly (WIPAS).
The Igbo group lambasted the Minister for Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, for being part of the alleged “denigration and marginalisation of his people”.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the award of contracts for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Eastern narrow-gauge railway line, with new spurs to two towns in the South-East zone and trans-shipment facilities.
The Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, had made this known when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the 18th virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council, revealing that the Council approved the construction of a new deep seaport in Bonny, under a Private-Public- Partnership (PPP) programme and the construction of an Industrial Rail Park in Port Harcourt.
But in a press release by its Board of Trustee Chairman, Chuks Ibegbu, and made available to media houses on Sunday, WIPAS queried why “the rail line from the West to the North and even up to Maradi in Niger Republic should be on standard gauge, while that on the Eastern corridor be on narrow gauge”.
The statement further added that, “the federal government is building a standard rail gauge line from Daura to Maradi in the Niger Republic and Rotimi Amaechi allowed this insult on his people.”
WIPAS called for an immediate review of the project and warned against the continuation of the project until the wrong is rectified.
On the alleged missing $1 billion defence funds as revealed by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, the Igbo organization called for the arrest and interrogation of the former Service Chiefs over the matter.
It lamented that “several soldiers and civilians have been killed in the war fronts in the North-East, while some unpatriotic top military officers and their civilian collaborators pilfer funds meant for the defence of the people”.
Monguno in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, last week had disclosed that “neither the money approved by Buhari for arms nor the arms itself was met on ground when the new service chiefs assumed office.” He later recanted the statement, saying he was misunderstood.
Things took a different turn after the interview from Nigerians on social and conventional media.
Following the development, the office of the NSA in defence of their boss claimed Monguno was quoted out of context as he did not say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the ex-service chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets.