•It is deliberate design to hold us down economically; continuation of marginalisation of SE zone —WIC
•They are simply playing on our intelligence — Prof. Madubuike
•Buhari Govt never wished South-East zone good —MASSOB
•A deliberate ploy to strangulate Ndigbo —Former Abia lawmaker
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Steve Oko & Chinedu Adonu
The Federal Government last week announced that it would not continue with the proposed Port Harcourt-Enugu Eastern Rail Line. It said it was not able to secure foreign loans that would provide 85% of the funds needed to execute the project.
The project which would have been of great benefit to Nigerians, particularly the five states in the South-East region namely: Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu as well as Rivers and other states in North-Central and North-East zones, seems to have become a dashed dream.
Question is how was the Government able to secure all manner of loans to execute other projects completed and ongoing in other parts of the country? This is the reason the people of the South- East region suspect foul play on the issue, seeing it as a well thought out grand design to continue to hold the South-East region down economically.
Blame Amaechi if Eastern rail line fails — Prof. Madubuike
A former Minister of Education and Health, Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike outrightly put the blame on the immediate-past Minister for Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, alleging that Amaechi never wanted the Eastern railway corridor to succeed.
According to him, if Amaechi genuinely had interest in the project and wanted it done, President Muhammadu Buhari could not have stopped him as he knows the importance of the project to Nigeria and its economy.
Madubuike said the so-called attempt to rehabilitate the Eastern rail lines was an after-thought, and designed to fail as there was nothing to suggest that the government was serious about it.
“We blame the former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi from Rivers State. Why will the Eastern rail lines be the last to be rehabilitated in Nigeria? Apart from that, why will they use the old system instead of the ultra modern system used in other regions?
“When he came to us and said he wanted to run for President as Igbo, we asked him, what are we going to use and sell you to Ndigbo? Tell us one project we can say you have done for us as Igbo man who also married Igbo lady.
“You have a rail project from Mardi to Katsina costing billions of naira; the ones from Abuja to Kaduna, Lagos to Ibadan, all are modern ones. But you said you are going to use the old system for the Eastern corridor. We queried him and he couldn’t give us any credible answer.
“So, some of these things are not a matter of Buhari. If you have been in position of trust and you want to serve your people, the President cannot stop you. But when you serve with slave mentality, that is when you get it wrong,” the former minister explained.
Professor Madubuike described the stoppage of the Eastern rail lines project after carting away the old rail tracks laid by the British in 1916 to evacuate coal from Enugu to the Port Harcourt seaport as horrible and the height of injustice.
“By telling us that they have stopped the project is simply playing on our intelligence”, he fumed, insisting that it is time to sanction Igbo people in positions of authority who fail to take advantage of their privileged position to advance the Igbo cause.
“The earlier we let our people in power know they can also be sanctioned at home, the better. If you are given a trumpet and you refuse to play it, nobody will play it for you. I was a Minister in 1979 under an accord, and when the accord broke because the other party refused to play by the rule, I resigned.
“But within that period, I had done for my people what I thought I should do for them. I had started the Federal University of Science and Technology, Owerri. I made sure Imo State University had taken off. I laid the foundation for the take-off of the Open University of Nigeria which is being enjoyed today.
“And when I came again as Minister for Health, I made sure the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri started; I moved the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu to its permanent site at Ituku Ozala.
“So, while you are serving others, you must also serve yourself. My mentor, Sam Mbakwe told me that while you are giving others food, put some in your mouth so that while they are eating, you are also eating, and nobody will quarrel. I blame Amaechi because there is no way he could have gone to the EXCO with a proposal to remodel the Eastern rail lines and the whole cabinet will say no, as a fair-minded Federal Government would not deny its Minister what it knows is right and appropriate.”
It is the continuation of marginalisation of the SE zone—WIC
Ndigbo in diaspora, the World Igbo Congress, WIC, says the action was a continuation of the marginalisation of the South-East and South-South zones. The WIC noted that it had cried out about the increased state-sponsored marginalisation of the Eastern states, noting that the present Nigeria as set up by the British was not intended to work as a nation.
Spokesman for WIC, Basil Onwukwe said the South-East region is continually witnessing deliberate plans to render the zone powerless politically and economically.
“The Buhari Government borrowed millions of dollars to rebuild railway structures in Nigeria but uprooted and removed the existing Eastern railway lines from Enugu to Port Harcourt. This is continuation of the marginalisation that has robbed the nation of any viable economic development. The Federal Government has now dropped the Eastern rail corridor, giving many excuses, expecting one to stick.
“The excuse that the government cannot secure foreign loans to provide 85% of the funds needed to execute the project is unacceptable; they could secure all manner of loans to execute various projects in other parts of the country and even beyond.
“This is deliberately designed to hold Eastern Nigeria, and South East/South-south regions down politically and economically, but no nation can survive under immense hate for equity and fairness,” WIC said.
Buhari Govt never wished South- East zone well—MASSOB
The leadership of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, also condemned and lambasted the Federal Government for stopping the Eastern railway project. MASSOB said it was not surprised as the Buhari administration never wished anything good for the people of the region.
“Buhari-led Federal Government speedily and rigorously developed the core Northern states, built and promoted modern railway transportation across Northern states, even neighbouring Niger Republic and Lagos State, including constructing highways with money from crude oil from southern states. They have now manifested their hypocritical tendencies against the Eastern region with reckless abandon. They said no money for the Eastern rail corridor, this is unacceptable.
“It is the continuation of open insensitiveness of the Buhari administration to the people of the South- East. This is evil and unacceptable to Ndigbo.
“Buhari has easily and readily been developing his kinsmen. He has also politically and economically empowered them more than any other tribe, including the Hausas. Stopping the Eastern railway project is deliberate; it is part of the grand design to hold the South-East region down economically,” MASSOB leader, Uchhenna Madu said.
MASSOB also reject the claim by the government that the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company workers were incessantly harassed by youths in Abia State, saying that the company had not started work in Abia State, not even their staff were yet in the state.
A senior lecturer at the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu, High Chief Uche Onyeke also decried the action of the Federal Government, insisting that it amounts to continued marginalisation of the South-East.
“This is like stating the obvious. Government had enough funds to complete the Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna, and even the Mardi super rail lines. Has the Federal Government completed the rehabilitation of the Enugu-Port Harcourt, Enugu-Onitsha, Owerri-Onitsha roads? Do you know of any one project that has been completed by the government in the South-East? Do we know whether the contract was awarded in the first place? Well, perhaps on paper and in cash, but not in execution”, he noted.
The decision of the government has dashed the hope of Onitsha business community, where hope was high that the rail system would help them in their businesses, more so with the proposed upgrading of Onitsha River Port.
An importer based in the Anambra commercial city, Chief Cletus Nnamdi noted that extending railway to the Eastern heartland cities would have done a lot for them.
“The rehabilitation of existing rail lines and development of standard gauge will no doubt boost transport system with connections to the nation’s seaports and river ports. There is no reason why a rail line should not come from Ibadan to Benin and Asaba and cross to Onitsha, then from Onitsha to Owerri and to Awka to join Enugu. This will greatly help in the movement of passengers and goods to their destinations; create new business and employment opportunities in the country and eliminate the high cost of haulage across the country,” Nnamdi said.
It is a designed ploy to strangulate Ndigbo —former Abia lawmaker
For former Deputy Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Dr. Cosmos Ndukwe, the stoppage of the rail project was a deliberate ploy to economically strangulate Ndigbo which he described as an act of wickedness. He expressed disappointment at the Federal Government for saying there was no funds to execute the project after the contractor had hurriedly scrapped and carted away the old rail tracks laid by the British during the colonial era.
“It was a deliberate act because when they started excavating the old rail built by the British, I had my suspicion. The ones done by the British were of a higher and better quality. What kind of double gauge are they bringing to us that will match the quality of the old ones? There was nothing on site to even show construction would begin after the removal of the old steel.
“And the speed with which the Chinese firm removed the old steel was very suspicious. I knew it would turn this way. This is just the same marginalisation and intimidation of Ndigbo. They just want to economically kill us. I just pray God will quickly bring an end to the hate, marginalisation and intimidation of Ndigbo,” Ndukwe said.
According to him, if the Federal Government could secure loans to execute the rail project in other zones, why would it claim it could not get loans again after removing the old ones in the South-East? He blamed the National Assembly members from the region and South East Governors for not doing enough to resist the action or at least raise a voice against it.
“It is painful and a thing of sorrow the way and manner our leaders keep quiet about issues affecting the South-East. None of them has raised a strong voice against this humiliation. There are suspicions that the old rail tracks the contractors carted away from Eastern corridor were used to pay for the projects the company executed in other zones. None of the steel is still in Nigeria today. They will go and melt them and even if they are bringing it back, it can’t be of the same quality.”
He also blamed the immediate past Minister for Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, for the non-execution of the Eastern rail project, saying: “It is a leadership failure on the part of the former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi who said he is Igbo man. It is also a failure on the part of South-East governors.”
Ndukwe charged “Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Igbo in Diaspora to stop depending on the political class but rise up against intimidation and victimization of the Igbo as there is a plot to cripple us economically.”