The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has incurred the wrath of the Joint Committee on Land and Marine Transportation on Thursday at a budget defence in Abuja for what they called discrimination in rail construction.
The lawmakers accused the Minister of constructing a standard narrow gauge for the Kano-Maradi Rail line to the neighbouring Niger while constructing an old narrow gauge for other parts of Nigeria.
They protested seriously that the budget approvals which the Ministry has enjoyed so far were for equal and national development, asking why other parts of the country were not equally treated.
Amaechi and other heads of agencies and parastatals under the transport Ministry appeared before the Joint Committee for the 2022 budget defence. Reacting, the Minister said: “The construction of Kaduna -Kano railways to link up the Abuja-Kaduna rail line has commenced. Survey and Design for Ibadan -Minna – Abuja is ongoing.“
Construction of the 284 kilometres Nigeria. -Maradi (Niger Republic) standard gauge, rail line enabling interconnectivity with countries in the West Africa sub-region for the promotion of trade and commerce.“
This important contribution by Nigeria would be mutually beneficial by adding to the economic growth of the two countries.”Chairman of Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Senator Danjuma Goje, and House Committee Chairman, Pat Azadu kicked against the marginalization of other regions of the country in the construction rail line.Goje, while querying the Minister expressed his discontentment over discrimination in railway construction, noting that giving Kano-Maradi modern rail lines and constructing old rail lines to other regions was unacceptable for any reason.
The Chairman Committee on Port, Pat Asadu who opened the floor after the Minister presented its budget to the Committee asked why the construction of modern rail lines for one place and constructing old rail lines to other parts of the country.
He queried, “Why won’t you construct narrow-gauge across the country so that we can develop equally. I can’t sit down and approve this. These are done with such impunity, my heart bleeds. This had been reoccurring.”The Senate Committee Chairman on Marine Transport supported the observation of Hon. Asadu. He asked, “why you will give us an old rail line and spending a lot of money to standard gauge to Maradi”
According to him, I completely concur with the statement of Honorable member in the House of Representatives. Ameachi while responding to the issue raised by the Committee said that the difference between the narrow gauge and standard gauge is speed adding that the country may not get the money to standard gauge across the country.
He said that the negotiation for a loan for the construction of the Kano-Maradi standard gauge line is about to be completed. He also clarified that his ministry was yet to get money for Kano-Kaduna, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway projects. “
The only money we have gotten is $1.4bn for the Lagos-Ibadan rail project,” he said. On the economic justification for constructing the $1. 3bn Kano-Maradi rail, Ameachi said the project was not based on sentiments but on economic benefits for the country.
He said on completion of the Kano-Maradi and Kano to Lagos railway, all national cargoes from the Niger Republic, like uranium and gold, would be moved through the Nigerian seaport from that corridor.