Bolaji Ogundele and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja
THERE is plan to extend the Kano-Katsina-Jibia-Maradi railway line into Niger Republic, the Presidency explained on Thursday.
The clarification came in the wake of criticisms that it was wasteful of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to have approved $1.96 billion rail project that would terminate in a neighbouring country.
The FEC at its weekly meeting approved the rail project from Kano to Maradi.
But, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) faulted the decision and described it as “an insult and waste of our scarce resources.”
In a press statement titled: “Rail construction to Niger Republic: What for?”, the TUC stated that by this latest move, it has become clear the managers of the country have ulterior and sinister motives, which is to ruin Nigeria.
The statement, signed by the TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, and its Secretary-General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, reads: “The Congress is not averse to development. Constructing rail lines to Kano, Katsina and Dutse is understandable; but why extend it to Niger Republic? Why should we borrow from the IMF, World Bank and China to build a rail line to Niger Republic? Is there something this government is not telling us?
“How could the federal government come up with such an idea in a country where potable water has become a luxury; right to electricity is regarded as a taboo for an average citizen, roads have become death traps and our health facilities lack malaria drugs? That sum – $1.96bn when exchanged at the rate of N380 per dollar is almost N800 billion. This can do a lot in the economy.
“The outbreak of the pandemic has exposed Nigeria to the world: our federal government was begging for ventilators and nose masks! Our education sector is in shambles. Agreements reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over a decade ago are yet to be met.
“We are celebrating six decades of independence yet Ghana, South Africa, etc. are threatening and treating Nigerians in their country with disdain. It hurts. It really does!
“According to a report from the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s total debt rose to $79.5 billion (N28.63 trillion as of the first quarter of 2020). Debt servicing gulps trillions of naira yearly.
“News had that Nigeria’s sovereignty is at stake if the country fails to pay China! How could the Federal Executive Council (FEC) accept such now? Or, has the Niger Republic annexed Nigeria?
“Government has not completed the road that connects Nigeria with other Western African countries yet the President Buhari-led administration approves construction of a rail line to Niger! What is Nigeria paying for? Or, could this be another way of looting our commonwealth in preparation for the 2023 electioneering campaign? The whole thing is becoming more confusing.”
The TUC listed the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway as a road important to the local economy but yet to be completed.
It also said that “the Niger Delta that lays the golden egg does not have good roads and potable water. They neither fish in their water nor go to the farm because of oil spillage.
“Yes, it is true that the NDDC was supposed to provide most of the basics; unfortunately, the reverse is the case because of corruption. Those appointed to manage the Commission ended up looting it dry. None is in jail because in the very first place it was a political settlement.”
It counselled the Federal Government to let its charity begin at home
The TUC said: “All we are saying is that Charity begins at home! This is not the time for profligacy and licentious spending; the government must manage our lean purse prudently.”
But, the government said it had no plan to build the rail line into Niger Republic.
Explaining the scope and form of the project in a number of tweets on his verified Twitter handle, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu said the Nigerian end of the rail line would terminate at the Nigeria’s end of the border with Niger.
According to him, Nigeria and the Niger Republic signed an agreement in 2015 to build a track from their ends, explaining that the two works, named the “Kano-Katsina-Maradi Corridor Master Plan (K2M)”, would meet at the border.
Shehu said in the tweets: “Nigeria isn’t building rail line into Niger but, only to the designated border point. An agreement between Nigeria and Niger in 2015, coordinated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation has a plan for ‘Kano-Katsina-Maradi Corridor Master Plan, (K2M)’ as it is called.
“Going by this, the two nations would each build a rail track to meet at the border town of Maradi. Nigerian delegates to that meeting comprised officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Boundaries Commission, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources as well as those of Kano & Katsina states.
“The objective of the rail is the harnessing of raw materials, mineral resources and agricultural produce. When completed, it will serve domestic industries and play the role of a viable transportation backbone to the West African sub-region, starting with the neighboring Niger Republic for their export and import logistic chain.”
Read the original article on The Nation