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S/East traders seek equitable distribution of rail lines, propose Ontisha-Aba link

To balance the observed distribution of new railway lines linking strategic cities in major tribes across Nigeria, a group, South East Concerned Traders for Regional Equity (SECTRE) has called on the federal government to construct a new rail line that will link key towns of the zone to boost socio-economic activities.

In an exclusive interview with the Public Relations officer of the group, Chief Ambrose Akaekpuchionwa, he said “SECTRE has observed that the federal government has begun distribution of railway services in major regions of the country to boost trade and movement of people.

“We recalls that few days ago, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing announced that the federal government has released a whooping N72bn, being counterpart funding for the delivery of a rail line between Lagos and Ibadan in Western Nigeria.

“Just weekend, the same federal government through the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, was in Kano State Government House to announce to the good people of Kano and Kaduna that the apex government has approved the construction of Kano-Kaduna rail line and we believe it’s to boost economic activities for the zone.

“Every Nigerian can recall the controversy generated by the South-South rail project during 2017 budget presentation which was later settled with the inclusion of the scheme. If you look at the entire scenario, you will see that rail lines have gone round and nothing for Ndigbo. It is not acceptable.

Continuing, Akaekpuchionwa argued that “For fairness and equity, it is only wise and equitable for a similar project to be situated in the South East to grow federal assurance that the South East is part of the entity called Nigeria. Linking Onitsha and Aba by rail will be one of the unforgettable legacies of the Buhari administration if it is delivered”.

“SECTRE demands a railway slot for the zone and we have studied and come to the conviction that a rail line linking Onitsha, our major commercial hub, with another mega industrial hub, Aba through Owerri to capture businesses that are in need of transport facilities to boom.

SECTRE warned that the federal government should not stop at only the South-south coastal rail project which was controversially forced into the 2017 budget, Lagos-Ibadan and Kano-Kaduna to give reasons like there is no money or recession or not in the budget as it will amount to a costly negligence of a strategic part of the federation called Nigeria.

“Again, South East traders will not like to hear that a PPP whatever will be used to fund railway linking Onitsha and Aba because such language never surfaced in the cases of Lagos-Ibadan and Kano-Kaduna.

“We will not accept the ongoing injustice of constructing 2nd Niger Bridge using a confused PPP arrangement designed to frustrate the project in the eventual development of the rail line from Onitsha to Aba.

“This is because, we cannot locate any other bridge either constructed or to be constructed linking any two states that is resting on a PPP arrangement, rather the federal government is footing all the bills except the 2nd Niger Bridge crawling for more than six year now without any delivery deadline.

“We recall that as huge and costly as East-West Road linking south-south states, the delivery was 100 per cent by the federal government, nothing like PPP where the citizens will pay toll throughout their life, so what are we saying?

Chief Akaekpuchionwa therefore advised the federal government and the Minister of Transportation in particular to do the right thing to balance provision of intraregional railway services in Nigeria. He made it clear that SECTRE will continue to support the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari in all his policies to grow business and unity in Nigeria.

Business Hilights recalls that the Federal Government has approved $1.2 billion for the construction of the Kano-Kaduna standard gauge railway project.‎

The Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed this in Kano on Saturday when he visited Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje, adding that the Federal Government was negotiating with China EXIM bank to finance the project.‎

Amaechi while defending the the project said part of the strategies of the Federal Government to get Nigeria out of recession is to invest in transport infrastructure to enhance the movement of goods, services and human capital across the country.

Explaining more on the financing, Amaechi hinted that while we expect that work will begin very soon, “We are negotiating with China EXIM bank and we are convince that this negotiation will end by June”.

The minister said that the Federal Government would provide about 100 locomotives for narrow gauge rail that would run through Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Funtua and Gombe to improve the economy.

Continuing, Amaechi revealed that “Before the end of June Lagos-Kano narrow gauge rail would have more locomotives that would run through Lagos, Port Harcourt, Funtua, Kano and Gombe states in order to boost the economy”.

Responding, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje, expressed his happiness and commended the President Muhammadu Buhari for fulfilling campaign promise.‎

While arguing that the emerging Kano-Kaduna standard rail project would save the road from total collapse, ‎Ganduje said that the state government recently signed a $1.8 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chinese firm to construct light rail in the state capital.