$5.9bn China Exim Bank rail loan: Senate summons Amaechi over exclusion of South-east

The Senate on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to explain why the eastern rail corridor was omitted in current government borrowing plan.

The Senate said the minister should appear before its Committee on Foreign and Local Debts to explain details of the loan to be obtained from China Exim Bank.

The invitation followed a motion raised during plenary by Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe, who claimed that the Eastern Corridor Rail Line was completed excluded from the Federal Government 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter to the Senate dated April 21, said that the China Exim Bank had approved 5.9 billion dollar loan for rail projects across the country.

Abaribe while presenting the motion observed that the loan being sought only covered the western corridor, excluding the eastern corridor which run from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.

According to him, since the loan will be repaid for by all sections of the country, every part of Nigeria should be taken into consideration.

Abaribe noted that the Railway Master Plan developed by the Ministry of Transport was not referred to in the current borrowing plan.

He argued that for the railway project to have meaningful impact on the development of the country, it should cover all parts of Nigeria.

Contributing, the Deputy Senate President, Mr Ike Ekweremadu said the rail project should cover all the corridors.

“I’m aware that the Federal Government is committed to rehabilitating and upgrading the railway infrastructure in Nigeria since Obasanjo’s regime, but the eastern line still remains in the old gauge, it is not on the standard gauge,” he said.

Ekweremadu said for every part of Nigeria to have standardised railway lines, “we must agree to obtain the necessary loan that will give us standard gauge in all parts of the country.

“We must ensure that all parts of the country are connected so that people can move from one part to another”.

However, Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) faulted the motion, saying it contained inadequate and inaccurate information.

He said that when the present administration came to power, it took into cognisance the Aba-Onitsha rail line.

“Let us do away with ethnic sentiments. All areas must be covered. Government is a continuum; the master plan is on ground.

“All sectors will be covered as promised by the Federal Government. The loans must be secured and approved,” he said.

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola saraki said that “at the leadership level we are taking up this matter with the executive.

“And that was what led to the amendment of the letter that came from the President.

“The first letter that came from the President did not specify that the South-East, North-East axis must also be standard gauge.

“We then insisted at the leadership level that every part of the country must benefit from the same and there must be a standard gauge. And that has been done.

“We have refered this to the Committee on Foreign and Local Debts,” he said.

Saraki then called on his colleagues to ensure that the spirit of Buhari’s letter was followed through while also calling for sincerity and commitment in processing the loan.

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