The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said on Thursday that South-East has not been denied the opportunity of using the rail services, and also not excluded from the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan.
Amaechi made this clarification before the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, while responding to allegation on the outright omission of Eastern corridor rail line in the 2016-2018 external borrowing (Rolling) plan.
According to the minister, it is not true that Igbo’s have been denied the opportunity of using the rail.
He said that the two main rail projects in the country, which was the Lagos-Kano and the coastal rail from Lagos to Calabar were not conceived nor approved by the present administration.
The minister said that the present administration was only implementing the rail projects in three segments, which were Lagos-Ibadan, Kaduna-Kano and Calabar-Port Harcourt through counterpart funding.
He said that the China EXIM bank covers 85 per cent while Federal Government was to cover the remaining 15 per cent including VAT and land acquisition fee.
Amaechi said: “What I heard was that, the Igbo’s said they have been denied the right to rail and I thought we should debunk that, it is not true that Igbo’s have been denied the opportunity of using the rail.
“I will start by saying that they are included; none of these contracts was awarded by us.
“The Lagos –Kano was awarded by President Olusegun Obansanjo in 2006.
“Which cover Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Minna-Kaduna-Kano, with a branch line from Minna-Abuja-Kaduna, which was awarded at the cost of $8.3billion.
“In 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan awarded the coastal rail line, which the Igbos was included; the rail takes-off from Lagos-Shagamu-Ijebu Ode-Benin-Sapele-Warri-Yenagoa with a siding to Otuoke to Port Harcourt.
“If you know the geography of Nigeria very well, from Port Harcourt, you can go to Uyo without going to Aba and that is what is called the East-West road.
“But to ensure that the Igbos were included it took off from Port Harcourt to Aba and Aba is part of South East in Abia state, which is longer and costly to Uyo, than Calabar.”
He said that an additional section from Benin-Abudu-Agbor-Uko-Ogwashukwu-Asaba to Onisha, stating that Onisha was in Anambra.
According to him, it will be wrong for anybody to say that the Igbo’s were not carried along in course of rail development.
Amaechi, said that the coastal rail from Lagos to calabar was awarded at 11.974 billion dollars, which was brought down to 11.1billion dollars under Buhari administration, saving 800million dollars.
He said: “So, both projects may not have covered the entire North East and South East but at least it got to South East either through Aba or Onisha.”
He, however, said that because of the huge financially implication of the projects, it was divided into three segments which are Lagos-Ibadan, Kaduna-Kano and Calabar to Port Harcourt.
The minister said that the next segment was the Lagos-Ibadan, saying that the loan was applied for and 1.5billion dollars was approved but yet to be accessed.
Earlier, the Committee Chairman, Shehu sani said that the meeting was called for the minister to explain the rationale behind the non-inclusion of the eastern part in the external borrow plan.
He said that the omission was causing controversies which needed to be cleared by the ministry.
Sni said: “This meeting was called by the committee in respect to the resolution on the outright omission of eastern corridor rail line.
“And the request for approval of the Federal Government 2016-2018 external borrowing plan, the concern is that, these have being raising some form of controversies across the country.
“This committee was mandated to invite you to explain to Nigerians, the rationale behind the non-inclusion of the eastern corridor in the rail line in the external borrowing plan of the Federal Government.
“This invitation is also for you to give us the technical details of the proposed rail line projects.”