Senate summons Amaechi over ‘neglect’ of eastern rail lines


Senate summons Amaechi over ‘neglect’ of eastern rail lines
The senate has summoned Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, to appear before its committee on land transport over alleged neglect of the eastern rail lines.
The resolution of the senate was sequel to a motion sponsored by Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president.
Ekweremadu raised the issue following the pulling out of General Electric (GE) from Nigeria’s $2 billion narrow gauge railway concession.
The senators had summoned the minister over the “exclusion” of the eastern rail lines in May 2017.
While moving a motion on the matter on Wednesday, the deputy senate president said there must be equity and fairness in projects across the country.
“Some months back, I did mention that less emphasis is being given to the railway development in the eastern axis of this country which include Port Harcourt, Enugu, Makurdi all the way to Yola to Maiduguri, passing through Plateau state and some parts of Nasarawa state including Delta,” he said.
“Essentially, the response we got earlier is that federal government had an understanding or agreement with the General Electric to take over that axis and be able to restore the line and manage it for some time and recover their money.
“It was supposed to be for goods only, there was no arrangement for passengers but the tragedy is that the arrangement has collapsed and GE has withdrawn from the arrangement.
“If you recall, when we granted the permission for government to raise loan from China to develop the western axis running from Lagos to Kano, it was also of the understanding that once that approval is secured that the federal government will engage with the Chinese authorities to also secure loan to deal with the eastern axis running from Port Harcourt.
“Today, the story has changed. Now what the Chinese authorities are being asked to do it is to come and take over that axis and use their money to fix that axis and then recover their money over time.
“The minister of transport should appear before our committees on land transport and local and foreign debts to explain to us the plan they have for those who live in this part of the country.”
On his part, Shehu Sani, senator representing Kaduna central, said it is clear that the there is no commitment in executing the project in the south-east corridor.
“This motion is apt and right. The last time in the senate committee of local and foreign debt, the minister of transport gave a firm pledge that the Port Harcourt Maiduguri rail line will be the next priority after the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano rail line but it is now evidently clear there is no firm commitment in executing that project from Port-Harcourt,” he said.
“The rail line has a lot of social, political and economic advantage in the sense that that every line will open up the areas in terms of business and movement of people.”
Ahmed Lawan, senate leader, said the rail project had not been abandoned.
“The eastern line or axis given to GE has not been abandoned. We raised the question two days ago somewhere and the minister himself actually explained and also during the launching of the next level,” Lawan said.
The motion was adopted after it was put to voice vote by Senate President Bukola Saraki.