By Marie-Therese Nanlong
The Federal Government’s insistence to build a railway from Nigeria to Niger has again been described as a waste of resources with the intention to aid the influx of foreign herders and potential voters who would come in to vote in Nigeria during general elections.
The member representing Riyom/Barkin Ladi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Mr Simon Mwadkon alleged this while speaking with journalists in Jos.
Mr Mwadkon whose constituency has been under persistent attacks by people suspected to be of the Fulani ethnic group questioned the obsession of the Federal Government in building the railway as well as getting the rejected water bill passed into law and stressed there are sinister motives behind such moves.
He lamented many Nigerians are uncared for in the different internally displaced person camps and many Nigerians cities have not been linked by rail but the Federal Government is putting heavy yoke of foreign loans to build rails into a desert.
According to him, “I think that is the truth, the rail is going to aid the movement of foreign herders into Nigeria. I listened to Garba Shehu trying to defend the federal government initiative of the rail construction, this is going to be constructed with money that is borrowed so each of us is going to pay for that because it is taxpayers’ money that is going to be used to repay the loan. They have not contacted us as to why that should be done.
“You recall during the 2019 elections, Nigeriens came to Nigeria and they say they came in solidarity to make sure that Buhari wins an election in Nigeria which was a terrible thing. I asked a question when INEC was addressing us at Hill Station Hotel here, it was so rowdy that I had to exchange words with the Governor on the issue.
“I asked if our sovereignty has not been tampered with if we will have a sovereign country coming in thousands on solidarity with the person we are going to elect as President. Are we now saying that Nigeriens are going to make sure they put a President for Nigeria or is it going to be a President that would be elected by Nigerians? The railway thing is to continue the aspect of bringing foreigners into Nigeria to come and vote.
“Some people have argued that it has to do the trade, that it is going to boost our economy but if you look at trade between Nigeria and the Benin Republic, the volume of trade between us, even to Togo, is higher, more than 100 times higher than the volume of trade between Nigeria and Niger, trade does not explain it. You just build a rail from here to a desert, for who? Nigerian cities have not been linked by rail so what is the economic importance or even the socio-cultural importance of that rail from Nigeria to Niger?
“Somebody will come on air and tell us it is to a border town, Maradi, Maradi is in the centre of Niger for Christ’s sake. Garba Shehu was trying to say that, was it that Niger had also built a rail towards Nigeria and there is a meeting point? That is not the case, it is completely a Nigerian thing and I see it as a waste.”
Speaking on the rejected water bill, he added, “Why does the federal government want to take over the control of such places? People have come out to say they heard from the grapevine that he wants to take the waterways so that these foreign Fulanis that are flooding into this country can come and settle there and of course, it has a political undertone. This bill was a timebomb that is capable of throwing this country to war but I think the House of Reps has done its best, we have taken our decision and the bill has been thrown out and it has doused some tensions.
“It can never come again by the rules of the House in this Assembly, perhaps in the 10th Assembly, and if we are alive and are there in the 10th Assembly, we will still do the needful to make sure that this bill does not succeed. The House has rejected this bill and if Mr Speaker wants it to be reintroduced, it means he is under pressure from somewhere but I am telling you the bill is dead.
“I don’t know what portion they want to amend, there is a constitutional lacuna there, the constitutional provision is that land, anywhere in this country is not in the purview of the federal government so what are they going to amend?
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“Is it that we are going to amend that section of the constitution that talks about who owns the land before re-introducing that bill or is it going to be reintroduced but not under the control of the federal government but the State government?
“Get this very well, the expanse of land that the bill is about either six or eight kilometres away from the waterways. There will be no house, no farming activities, nothing so supposing I am a riverine person and my house is by the riverbank, are they going to take me away and resettle me somewhere? How would my means of livelihood be? That bill is capable of bringing a war into this country.”