We didn’t exclude zone from project –Ministry of Transportation
Eminent personalities, including businessman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, yesterday led other regional bodies such as the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Nidgbo; and the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), to berate the Federal Government over the alleged exclusion of the South-East zone from the ongoing Chinese multi-billion naira railway project by the current administration. The outcry followed complaints by Senators from the South-East zone who lamented that the region was excluded from the railway project.
It was gathered that the Senate following this outcry summoned the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to appear before its Committee on Local and Foreign Debts on Tuesday to explain reasons for the alleged exclusion of the South-East zone. Speaking with our correspondent in Owerri, Imo State, Iwuanyanwu expressed regret over the distribution of Nigeria’s commonwealth without recourse to the South-East.
He said: “Nigeria is taking a huge loan facility running into many billions of Naira for the said project and this loan will be repaid by all of us, so it is mean-spirited and unfair to exclude the South-East from benefitting from the railway project.
“If you take a closer look at the deployment of most of the major loan facilities obtained for developmental purposes, you will notice that they are hardly applied in the South- East. So, I am in full support of our Senators and urging them to hold their ground and insist that the right thing be done.”
Iwuanyanwu, who stated that the Federal Character provision in the 1999 Constitution meant nothing to these people that are denigrating the entity called Nigeria, said such an action had necessitated the prevalent nature of lopsided policies.
He said: “For them, the Federal Character provision only applies when it does not favour the South-East. Check all the loans obtained so far; whether it is for industry, infrastructure, railway or whatever, the South-East is largely excluded.
“So, when we complain about this unwholesome trend, the Federal Government should understand that it is such brazen acts of marginalisation that is fuelling agitations across the country. FG must begin to live up to its responsibilities and obligations to this singular entity called Nigeria and not to any groupings of people to the exclusion of others.” “All we want is our fair share of our commonwealth and that is not too much to ask for in a country we have invested so much in material, human resources and blood,” he said.
Commenting also, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, in a statement issued in Enugu, said there was absolutely no plan for the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri or Eastern rail line, which traverses Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Oturpko, Igumale, Makurdi, Kafanchan, Kuru, Bauchi, Gombe and all the way to Maiduguri. According to him, the recent exclusion of the Southeast region of the country from the ongoing Railway lines in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly seeking the approval of $5.185billion China-Exim Bank loan is the height of injustice meted on the people from the zone. Nwodo, who expressed dismay said the next set of railway development would take care of the South-East, is not worth a pinch of salt.
“The exclusion of the South-East, North-East, and parts of North-Central is a clear breach of the Federal character principle as captured in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty. “Importantly, these railway projects are all funded by loans payable by every part of Nigeria.
At this rate, therefore, the present and future gen-eration of South-East, North- East, and North-Central will end up paying for loans they did not benefit from, ” he said. In its contribution, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) chided Amaechi for neglecting Ndigbo in the railway project. MASSOB said since his appointment as a minister, Amaechi has taken the issues of Biafra agitation, agitators and shortchanging the national interest that will favour Igbo interest as the only entertainment of his APC masters. In a statement, MASSOB national leader, Uchenna Madu, stated that Amaechi had thrown caution to the winds in sabotaging the desire and wish of all Igbos, including his kinsmen.
“Any man who knowingly and consciously satisfies and justifies the evil conscience of his people’s oppressors is a murderer. Has Chibuike Amaechi who claimed that the people of Eastern Region are better and comfortable in Buhari’s administration condemned the many killings, harassment, intimidation and genocide by armed Fulani Herdsmen against the people of Eastern region? “We wish to remind Amaechi that his appointment by Buhari as a minister is just temporary and irrespective of his errand gallantry for President Buhari, APC will replace him soon with a Hausa Fulani man.
“MASSOB warned that politicians should stop playing politics with the destiny and aspirations of their people.” Reacting, the Chairman of the Aba Unit of the CLO, Dr. Charles Chinekezi, condemned the omission of the South-East geopolitical zone among the beneficiaries of the proposed railway project. Speaking with Saturday Telegraph on the development, Chinekezi said: “If someone in the ministry of transport cannot remember the vibrancy the railway gave to the economy of Nigeria, the ease it gave to transportation and also do not understand why the new railway system should cut across all parts of the country, including South-East, then the person is not fit for that position.
“This omission will certainly build more pressure for this government here in South-East as it has sent very wrong signals to people over here. People who must be in high policy areas of government must be properly exposed, educated and linked to the direct society they serve.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Transportation yesterday clarified that the South-East zone was not excluded from the Federal Government’s ongoing rail projects. A statement issued by the Director of Public Relations, Yetunde Sonaike, said the ministry was embarking on two major rail projects in the country. She said the ongoing rail projects were the Coastal Rail Project from Lagos-Calabar and the Lagos-Kano rail lines.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation wishes to state clearly that the South- East geopolitical zone has not been excluded from the Federal Government ongoing rail projects. “The two major rail projects of the Federal Government are the Coastal Rail Project from Lagos-Calabar, which will traverse Lagos- Sagamu-Ore-Benin City- Sapele-Warri-Yenogoa with siding to Otuoke-Port Harcourt- Aba-Uyo-Calabar and branch line from Benin City – Abudu-Onitsha, including Onitsha rail bridge.
“Lagos-Kano rail project will traverse Lagos-Abeokuta- Ibadan-Osogbo-Ilorin- Jebba-Minna-Kaduna-Zaria- Kano, with branch line from Minna-Abuja and Abuja- Kaduna.” Sonaike said the loan from China Exim Bank would be used to fund the three segments from the two major rail projects which were Lagos- Ibadan, Kano-Kaduna and Lagos- Kano.