East-West rail project feud: Amaechi and injustices of clannish minds

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IT would have been better to stay comments on the ongoing feud over the east-west (Lagos-Calabar) rail project in the budget submitted by the Ministry of Transportation but for the vexing ranting of some Nigerians who at best are clannish and at worst evil-minded.

Is all the bickering, name calling and unguarded outbursts on this matter actually necessary especially now that Nigerians expect those leading and/or representing them to get down to the serious business of cushioning the biting effects of the present economic situation?

What is the issue- whether or not the project was in the Appropriation Bill laid at the floor of the National Assembly by President Mohammadu Buhari?

How else does the National Assembly or their hikers expect to redress this contention when explanations have been reeled out by both the executive and even a section of the same assembly? A statement by The Budget Office clarifying the contentious issue of whether or not it was included in the budget had it that: “With reference to the specific issue of the Calabar – Lagos rail project, we will like to state that the two railway projects, Lagos – Kano and the Calabar – Lagos, are very important projects of the present administration; and it was always the intention of the Executive to have both projects reflected in the budget submitted to the National Assembly.

“However, it will be recalled that the Budget Office made a number of errors in the initial proposals of a number of ministries. These errors were all corrected by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the corrected versions were submitted to the relevant committees of the National Assembly. This included that of the Ministry of Transportation.

“The amended Ministry of Transportation budget was accepted by the relevant committees and that was the version defended by the Minister of Transportation and his team.

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“It must be emphasized that the two rail projects are part of those for which the President is currently negotiating funding with the Chinese government.

“The N60b provided in the budget for the Lagos-Kano and Calabar-Lagos rail lines, respectively, is counterpart funding, to support the Chinese financing for the projects.”
Both the Danjuma Goje-led Senate Appropriations Committee and Senator Gbenga Ashafa’s Committee on Land Transportation had also clarified the matter.

From Senator Ashafa’s statement, Ameachi appeared before the Senate Committee on Land Transportation to defend the Calabar-Lagos rail. The video recording of Amaechi defending this item in the budget is viral on the internet. So why are some senators still calling for the head of the minister over nothing?

During his budget defense as clearly shown in the video, Amaechi clearly stated that 60 billion was to be appropriated for an East-West rail line alongside another 60 billion for Lagos-Kano (the northern leg of the same project). This is the same Project which was negotiated by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and for which President Buhari is currently in China negotiating a loan to complete. So there is nothing in this aside petty politics which is really unnecessary in this matter.

There is a clear line of political mischief in this controversy. Could it be that some politicians are on a mission to reinforce the impression in both South East and South South and even South West that this administration was out to undo those regions for whatever reasons? But thank God for the person of President Buhari who is standing his grounds on correcting this wrong perception by treating every section of the country with equal levity.

If one route is crucial to the socio-economic development of the areas it covers, what makes anyone think the second leg is unnecessary for the other sections and its people? The people desire it just as other people desire the Lagos-Kano (the northern leg of the project). And all the bickering send wrong impressions that the interests of the peoples of the South East, South South and even South West does not count much to the people running the present dispensation. This is not true at all, though this is what the politicians behind this campaign are out to create.

Calabar – Lagos rail line had been in the Niger Delta master plan for over ten years now and the President Buhari whose attention was called by Amaechi to this all important project, agreed to include it in this year’s appropriation, so how can anyone justify removing such project except for nepotism and sectionalism? Thank God for the person and character of the Minister of Transport who himself comes from the section of the country affected by this manipulation.

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Let’s even look at it: so if members of the National Assembly saw a line of nearly N60 billion in the second version of the Appropriation bill which was not allocated to any specific project (either by omission or deliberate design), the patriotic and honest thing to do was their unilateral decision to use the money to increase the budgetary allocations for the Lagos-Kano rail project by almost N30 billion and assigning another N20 billion of the money for a Port Project in Niger state, a project whose proposal and feasibility has not even been completed nor approved by the executive; then the balance of N10 billion assigned for constituency projects in one section of the country only. Haba, let’s learn quickly to begin to leave together as one people of one nation!

The argument as to any issue of apology by the Transport Minister is simply diversionary. The Calabar Lagos rail is of crucial importance to the people in the eastern section of the country. It’s economic and socio- political impact is invaluable. No doubt, it is desired just like the Kano Lagos rail is desired by others.

It goes beyond whether or not the Minister of Transportation included it in the original version of the Budget; we must face governance and not trivialities. The minister of transportation also defended the rail project when he appeared before the Committee on Land Transportation and Senator Gbenga Ashafa, the committee chairman has come out to defend it. So is it not curious that the Appropriation Committee had been less than honest on this issue? Thank God sanity is prevailing especially because of the man we have as president. These two projects should be subjects of appropriation in 2016. That is a practical way out of this quagmire. God bless Nigeria!

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