Senate insists ongoing rail projects cover all zones

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate has insisted that no geo-political zone be excluded in the ongoing modernization of the country’s rail corridors as contained in the Railway Master Plan developed by the Ministry of Transportation.

President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki made the confirmation at the resumed plenary on Tuesday, while addressing the concerns of Eastern Nigerian Senators who had challenged the modalities used by the present administration in executing the rail projects.

In a motion sponsored by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, and titled Outright omission of eastern corridor rail line in the request for approval of Federal Government 2016-2018 external borrowing (Rolling Plan), the lawmakers observed that the sections of the rail line that the loan was being sought for, covered only the Western Nigeria corridor.

Senator Abaribe also noted that, the Eastern section of the rail segment which has a link between the south eastern to north eastern parts of the rail line was completely excluded from the loan request.

However, the Senate President gave a resounding assurance that every interest in the country had been taken care of with regards to the rail projects.

“At the leadership level, we are taking up this matter with the Executive, and that was what led to the amendment of the letter that came from the President. The first letter that came from the President did not specify that the south east- north east axis must also be standard gauge. And the letter that came from the President, we insisted at the leadership level that every part of the country must benefit from the same, and that has been done.

I think the point we just want to make here is that to ensure that the spirit of the President’s letter is followed through. I think that’s where the emphasis lies and we shouldn’t be getting this discussion to areas that are not in the interest of the unity of this country,” he stated.

Corroborating the Senate President’s position, Chairman of the Senate committee on transportation, Senator Olugbenga Ashafa, refuted the claims by Senator Abaribe, noting that the project plan covers the rail corridor involving Onitsha and Aba; the two biggest commercial nerve centers of the Eastern Nigeria.

Senator Ashafa confirmed that, “until the entire project is finished, one may not be able to understand the routes because it is not yet on ground.”

The motion according to Senator Abaribe had noted that the loan being a Federal Government borrowing would be paid for by all sections of Nigeria, demanding that every section of the country should be taken into consideration.

It further expressed concern on the exclusion of the eastern section that links the four zones of south–south, south-east, north-central, and north-east, and the key cities such as Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Makurdi, Lafia, Gudi, Jos, Bauchi, and Maiduguri.

Consequently, the Senate adopted one of the resolutions in the motion which seeks to invite the Transport Minister to appear before the lawmakers to explain the reasons for the exclusion of the eastern corridor of Nigeria’s rail lines from the proposed loan from China Exim Bank.

The second resolution urging the Senate to suspend consideration of the loan request of any guise until the correction of the apparent oversight of the eastern parts of the country was however withdrawn because of the explanations given by the Senate President.

It would be recalled that, on the 26th April, the Federal Governmnet laid before the National Assembly a request seeking an approval for a loan of $5,851 billion from China Exim Bank, to execute the modernization of the Lagos-Kano, Kano-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, and Lagos-Calabar rail segment.