PDP faults Amaechi’s claims on South East omission from rail projects
The Senate caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has faulted a statement credited to the Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, that the South East zone was not omitted in the development of some rail lines for which the sum of $5.8 billion loan was taken from China Exim Bank.
Spokesman of the Senate PDP caucus, Senator Ehinnanya Abaribe, who had raised a motion on the floor of the Senate last week, about the development, insisted yesterday that Amaechi was trying to divert attention from the issue.
Abaribe asked Amaechi to explain why the South-East corridor was scheduled for concessionaires to build while other rail line corridors in other parts of the country would be built with funds borrowed by the Federal Government.
Reacting to a press statement issued by the Federal Ministry of Transport that the South East zone was not omitted as alleged by the Senate, as Aba and Onitsha are among towns covered by the coastal railway corridor, Abaribe said, “my motion is not only about the South-East, but about the second major railway corridor in Nigeria, built by the British, which covers South-South, South-East, North Central and North-East.
“The corridor is from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, it covers over 100 towns and major cities, not about Aba or Onitsha; far from it. It industrialized many cities and gave jobs directly and indirectly to thousands.
“In addition, the letter from Mr. President seeking for expedited action on approval of the loan did not specify when the eastern corridor would be modernized.
“The motion stated that negotiations are on to get a Concessionaire for the eastern line. In other words, while we borrow for the western line, we must wait to get some entity interested to concession it.”
Asked, why the railway corridor cannot wait for next phase as proposed by Senator Gbenga Ashafa during the debate on the motion, Abaribe explained:
“If it is our collective money saved out of our earnings, we can wait for the next season, but since it is collective debt, why don’t we endeavour to borrow enough and stimulate the growth of every region at the same period? Don’t you know that railways more than any other infrastructure is critical to the growth of the economy. It is a big catalyst for the creation of jobs and creation of new towns.’’
Abaribe further argued that “all those on the over 100 towns and villages served by the eastern line would suffer double jeopardy by paying twice. Once for the collective debt and also for the concession costs which would be borne solely by them.”