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Minister’s mention of Biafra as another country raises hate speech concerns

At a time issues of gagging Nigerians against the use of provoking or inciting language in national life vide emerging Hate Speech Bill which had passed second reading at the Senate, the utterance of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, during the groundbreaking ceremony of Transportation University in Daura, Katsina State, has generated heated anger and varied analysis.

The minister conducted the foundation laying stone of the institution in Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home town in the state on Monday, December 02, 2019. The university is being bankrolled up to the tune of $50m by Chinese construction giant (CCECC) handling all rail development schemes for the Federal Government as a form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while trying to defend the choice of Daura, a border community for the school, the minister said “When we sited the factory at Kajola, there was no noise, nobody debated about it, nobody abused us for it unlike the site for the university.

According to him, “Daura is in Nigeria, it is not in any other part of the world. It is not in Niger Republic, Biafra or Mali, it is in Nigeria. So, what is wrong in siting the University of Transportation in Daura?

Continuing, he insisted that “I have no regret siting this university where I have sited it, it is not because I want to get any gain.”

A cross-section of Nigerians, who barred their minds on the comment claimed that the mention of Biafra by a high ranking government official shows that the government may be having a sidelining mentality on the region of Nigeria that was formally Biafra in terms of federal deep pocket projects.

They said for such comment to come from a top Minister means that the South East region which is formally Biafra, may not gain anything from the government and therefore termed it hate speech against the region.

However, there had been superior arguments against the site by transport industry analysts, who are querying the brain behind siting a specialized institution in a state that has no comparative advantage of any form of transportation hub or sub-sector amongst any other state in Nigeria.

According to the experts, a transportation university should be sited in a city or state with well known transport beehives either in rail, air, land or even water, stressing that none of these beehives can be seen in Katsina State.

They further argued that the site of the university will discourage intending students because it will put students on the road every time they have research assignment as there is nothing concerning transportation studies that is spectacular to use as case studies anywhere in Katsina State.

Earlier in his reasons, the Minister claimed that “It is my attempt at responding to the question of how to maintain and manage all the infrastructure we are building and realise that education is key.”