By Emeka Mamah
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo has frowned at the exclusion of the South East in the Federal Government’s modernisation policy of railway projects in the country, describing the action as the height of injustice against Ndigbo.
It’s President, Dr Nwodo spoke against the backdrop of the recent exclusion of the Eastern Rail line in President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly, seeking its approval to borrow about $5. 185 billion (about N2.074 trillion) from China’s Exim Bank.
Stressing that the Buhari- led government was unfair to Ndigbo, Nwodo said, “The letter to the National Assembly is a reminder and extension of the political marginalisation and even exclusion of the South East. The major railway projects by the Federal Government are the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano modernisation (standard gauge) rail line and the Lagos- Ibadan segment is already ongoing at the cost of $1.231 billion.
“The Lagos- Kano modernisation rail project, has the Kano-Kaduna segment alone costing $1.146 billion while the Lagos-Calabar standard coastal line will gulp $3.474 billion. The mention in the said letter that the next set of rail development would take care of the South East is not worth a pinch of salt and, therefore, unacceptable to Ndigbo.
The exclusion of the South East is in clear breach of the Federal Character Principle as captured in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that the conduct of the affairs of the Federal Government shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the 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 generations of Ndigbo will end up paying for loans they did not benefit from. Although a N64 billion contract was awarded to a Chinese firm in 2011 for the rehabilitation of the Eastern Rail Line, it is still the old gauge, not a modern/standard gauge and not making any reasonable progress. “Besides, only a concession for the provision of goods coaches to run on the rehabilitated old gauge was given to General Electric, GE, and there is no plan for standard gauge or passenger traffic on this line.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo wishes to call the attention of the Federal Government and members of the National Assembly to this large-scale injustice, as these actions fuel restiveness and quests for independent sovereign states in parts of the country. “We call on the lawmakers, leaders and civil society from this region to mobilise their colleagues and compatriots who believe in the unity and equitable development of the country to vote against this injustice.”