By George Opara
Abuja — The Senate yesterday summoned the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to address its Committee on Local and Foreign Debts on alleged infraction to the loan approval for the development of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail project.
It was learnt that the plan for the development of the eastern railway was sharply different from other parts of the country.Whereas the upper chamber of the National Assembly gave approval for the Federal Government to engage with the Chinese authorities and secure a loan to fix the project as obtained in other axes, the lawmakers found out that the Muhammadu Buhari concessioned this one in question under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
By implication, the Chinese are to fund the repairs and recover their money over time possibly through tolling.The decision to summon the minister followed the adoption of an earlier motion in that respect sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West).
In his lead debate, he had recalled that some months ago, he mentioned that less emphasis was being given to railway development in the eastern axis of this country, covering Port Harcourt-Enugu-Markudi to Yola and Maduguri through Delta, Plateau and some parts of Nasarawa state.He also regretted that the response he got was that the Federal Government had an understanding or agreement with General Electric to take over that axis.
But the lawmaker affirmed that arrangement had collapsed and GE had withdrawn from the deal. Ekweremadu went on: “You will recall that when we granted permission for the Federal Government to raise loan from China to develop the western axis running from Lagos to Kano, it was also the understanding that approval be secured for government to engage with the Chinese authorities to also secure loan to deal with the eastern axis running from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
“Now the story has changed. What the Chinese are being asked to do is to come and take over that axis under a PPP arrangement and use their own money to fix that axis and recover their money over time.”I believe this is not fair to those of us in the eastern part of Nigeria. For a country to survive, there must be equity, fairness and justice, and any country that is running against these principles will be heading for disaster.
“We believe that such opportunities must be spread across and that is the only way we can ensure unity, peace and progress of this country.”He further said: “My simple prayer is that the Minister of Transport does appear before our committees on Land Transport and Local and Foreign Loans to explain to us what plan they have for those of us who live in the eastern part of Nigeria.
“We are interested in railway development. We want to commend the Federal Government in showing interest in railway development, but it is important that that interest is spread across all parts of Nigeria so that we all have a sense of belonging.”