Senate summons Amaechi over ‘exclusion of eastern rail lines’ from upgrade

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Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has been summoned by the Senate to explain why the eastern corridor of the country’s rail lines was excluded from the proposed loan from the China Exim bank.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in April sent a letter to national assembly seeking the approval of the lawmakers to borrow $5.851 billion for the upgrade of various sections of the country’s railway.

The resolution of the senate on Tuesday was sequel to a motion sponsored by Enyinnaya Abaribe, senator representing Anambra south in which he noted that the required loan only covers the rehabilitation of a section of the country’s rail lines.

“The eastern section of the rail segment, which has a link between the south-east to the north-eastern parts of the rail line is completely excluded from the request,” the legislator said.

“The loan being a federal government borrowing would be paid for by all sections of the country, therefore every section of the country should be taken into consideration.

“There is a railway master plan developed by the ministry of transport and of which such plans has not been referred to in the current borrowing plan.”

He stressed that for the railway projects to have meaningful impact on the development of the country, it should be made to cover all parts.

Abaribe said the exclusion of the eastern section that links the south-south, south-east, north-central and north-east to key cities such as Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Makurdi, Lafia, Gudi, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri is inexplicable.

Contributing to the debate Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, described the omission as discriminatory.

“This is discrimination and should not be allowed to continue in this dispensation,” he said.

Kicking against the motion, Gbenga Ashafa, senate committee chairman on transport, said the information in the motion was inadequate.

He said that when the Buhari administration came on board, Aba and Onitsha were chosen for rehabilitation of rail lines passing through the cities.

“What the government is doing is the right thing, you have to negotiate the loans before you start a project,” Ashafa said.

On his part, senate president Bukola Saraki said the leadership was already looking into the matter, adding that it is important for every part of the country to have standard gauge lines.

The senate adopted the motion after it was put to a voice vote by Saraki.

Amaechi is expected to appear before the senate committee on transport.

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