We can no longer deliver eastern rail line - FG

By Ori Martins

One of the hallmark projects and achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is the construction of  thousands of kilometres of railways across the country, including the one from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic. 

However, none of these projects connects the South east. Indeed, the only one planned to connect the zone, the East-West rail never took off the ground after so much noise was made about it. Abandoning the project as it now seems mean the South East zone is left out in the billion dollar railway schemes and what would have been the most lucrative section of the project may never be.

This explained the agitation and concern of some members of the House of Representatives, who drew the attention of government to the need to restart the project because of it’s huge economic potential for the country. Although, government has order the project to be revived, most people are sceptical of government sincerity given the limited time of it’s tenure.

Initially, there were the huge  sum of $14.4b allotted for what was called East – West Railway project. The scheme, otherwise known as Coastal Rail Line, measuring 1,400km standard guage links Lagos-Ore-Benin-Sapele-Warri- Yenagoa-Port Harcourt-Aba-Uyo-Calabar -Akamkpa-Ikom – with a branch from Benin-Asaba-Onitsha-Port Harcourt- Onne  Deep Seaport.

As it were, the Federal Government of Nigeria abandoned the  East-West Rail Line and it never got funded like in other zones: the Abuja-Kaduna in the north and the Lagos-Ibadan rail lines.

As far as the South East is concerned the abandoned East-West Rail Line project is another proof of the age long Igbo marginalization.

Igwe Ubadi Egwu, a technology expert and commentator on national issues, made it known that such an exclusion was an indication of further marginalization.

According to him, “I am very much disturbed that at a time we hoped  the issue of Igbo marginalization should be disappearing from the  national prism, the present APC government at the centre still does not factor in the South East interest.

“The deliberate abandonment of the East – West Rail Line is nothing but an extension of the Igbo marginalization. It is really uncalled for but it is not unacceptable”.

A researcher and  publicist, Nduka Chuks, noted that a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon Dozie Nwankwo had charged the Federal Government of Nigeria  to ensure that the East-West Railway project be captured in the 2023 project.

In his submission on the floor of the Green Chambers while he presented his motion, Nwankwo observed that the opting out of Exim Bank of China, the contractor in March 2021, made arrangements for $11bn alternative  counterpart funding with Standard Chartered Bank  out of the $14.4bn  required to execute the project.

In his contribution,  Princess Nkechi Ugoh Daniel, a grassroots politician in Enugu State, in a phone conversation, noted that the abandonment of the railway project is a clear case of marginalization against the South East by the Buhari led APC federal government.

“As we talk now,  work is on going in all other railways in the other zones except in the South East. This is quite condemnable. It is wrong because it means we are still marginalized. I am not surprised because this APC federal government has always marginalized our people.

“Are you aware that the South East has no representation  in the security architecture and there are about 16 of them. This administration has built seven federal universities without any in the South East?

“This is the first time in democratic Nigeria an Igbo is not the president, not the vice president, not the senate president, not the deputy senate president, not the speaker and not the deputy speaker. We have not had it this bad before now”.

The burden of marginalization, according to investigation, is at the root of the now notorious insecurity currently trending in the South East. A situation where the  there is no functional international airport in the real sense of it is condemned by the generality of Ndigbo who also see the abandonment of the East-West Railway project as an act of marginalization.

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