…Over exclusion of South East, North East in rail project
• Summons transport minister, Amaechi
From FRED ITUA, Abuja
The $5.851billion China Exim Bank loan request submitted to the Senate on April 26, 2017, may be stalled, following protests by South East senators, over the alleged exclusion of their zone from the nationwide railway modernisation project.
According to a motion tagged, “Outright Omission of Eastern Corridor Rail Line in the request for approval of Federal Government 2016-2015 External Borrowing (Rolling Plan)”, sponsored by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and other members of the South-East Caucus, the exclusion was “inexplicable.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, assured the protesting lawmakers that the leadership of the Senate had already taken a position on the non-inclusion of some parts of the country in the project.
He said the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, headed by Shehu Sani, were already working on the loan request.
He added that if the interest of every section of the country was not accommodated, the Senate would insist on an “all inclusive project.
“We must give information at the leadership level and we are taking up this matter with the Executive. That was what led to the amendment of the letter that came from the President. The first letter did not specify that of the South-East and North-East axis must also be standard gauge.
“We insisted at the leadership level that every part of the country must benefit and that there must be a standard gauge and that has been done.”
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said any injustice done to any part of the country, should be frowned at by the Senate.
He said the Federal Government was rehabilitating rail lines throughout the country, but excluded the South-East geopolitical zone.
He claimed that railway projects already awarded by the Federal Government was deliberately abandoned, through non-release of funds to contractors.
He maintained that promises made by government that the region would be accommodated in future projects were doubtful, saying that no section of the country should be excluded in projects.
Gbenga Ashafa, chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, countered the South-East senators, arguing that government was a continuum and that the region would be accommodated in future projects.
Abaribe, had while moving the motion, noted: “On April 26, 2017, the Federal Government laid before the National Assembly a request seeking an approval for a loan of $5,851billion from China Exim Bank to execute the modernization of Lagos-Kano, Kano-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Calabar rail segment.
“The Senate observes with dismay that the above sections of the rail line that the loan was being sought for covers only a section of the country i.e. the western corridor or sections.
“The Eastern section of the rail segment, which has a link between the South Eastern to North Eastern parts of the rail line is completely excluded from the request.
“The loan being a Federal Government borrowing would be paid for by all sections of the country. Therefore, every section of the country should be taken into consideration.”
Abaribe urged the Senate to suspend consideration of the loan request until the correction of the apparent oversight of the eastern parts of the country was effected.
Upon the Senate President’s explanation, Abaribe withdrew the prayers. Instead, the Senate resolved to summon the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to appear and explain the reasons for the exclusion of the Eastern Corridor of Nigeria’s Rail Lines from the proposed loan from China Exim bank. (The Sun)