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‘2nd Niger Bridge, Onitsha-Aba railway; baits to be used to woo S/East in 2019 elections’

Followers of national electioneering campaign gimmicks have smoked out two mega schemes most likely to be used by front-line political parties to trade bulk votes come 2019 presidential election from the South East.

But they have warned stakeholders in the region to either begin now to clear the clogs on their eyes to avoid the political mistakes of yesteryears’.

Surveys carried out by some groups on locations of current federal government’s key infrastructural developments have shown that not much is going on in the region.

Otherwise, stakeholders in the Nigerian project, mostly from the eastern part of the country, have decried the lacklustre attitude of government, not only in the distribution of capital projects, but in the construction of the second Niger Bridge and recent approvals of new railway schemes.

Records show that the construction of second Niger Bridge was first used as bait by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on two campaigns; first during the second terms and during the failed third term bid.

Former late President Umar Yar’Adua used the same second Niger Bridge in his first terms.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan over used the same bait in his first term and used it again in his failed second term bid alongside President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

In all, second Niger Bridge remains the most used project in all the presidential electioneering campaigns carried out in the South East, but nothing has come out of it.

Only early last week, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing announced a N14bn release for the scheme.

Two weeks later, the federal executive council approved two link roads from both Asaba and Onistha ends of the second Niger bridge for construction.

But what the federal government has not done is to explain to Nigerians on what development platform is the bridge coming?

Former President Jonathan had cooked up a trap-like development framework where Public Private Partnership (PPP) will be used to deliver the bridge which was contrary to his electioneering promises of using the federal government allocations to deliver the infrastructure.

According to the PPP arrangement which the current administration has not either rejected or adopted, Anambra and Delta States will contribute 40 per cent, private investors will contribute another 40 per cent while the apex government will drop the remaining 20 per cent and the entire contributions will be recouped over a period of 30 years.

Then Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi was the first to pullout of the deal, followed by former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, citing paucity of fund as federal allocation started dwindling within the period and even till today.

As it is now, nobody can effectively say, this is the financing model of the second Niger Bridge, an indication that it may have been programmed to be endless and a routinely electioneering campaign tool.

On the second campaign bait for bulk votes in the region, analysts are arguing that why the federal government had kept quiet on approving a new commercially driven railway project in the South East is to use possibly, the construction of Onitsha-Aba railway as a second bait to pull through.

But they argue that none of the ongoing railway projects in the North, West and South South were campaign promises in 2015.

Again, another angle of the schemes that will be painful for the south easterners is that both the Lagos-Ibadan railway and Kano-Kaduna railway including the controversial Lagos-Calabar railway will be delivered with a World Bank loan of $6.1bn.

Whereas other regions will gain from the loan by being proud owners of new standard railway system, the South East will only partake in the loan repayment. This is true because when deductions will be made from the federal government account to pay back the loan, the effects will be felt in reduced monthly allocations to all the states including the South East states who did not get any new railway scheme from the said loan.