“FG not building rail line into Niger Republic’ — Garba Shehu contradicts Amaechi
The Trade Union Congress, TUC, Thursday, took a swipe at the Federal Government over the recent approval of $1.96 billion for the construction of a rail line from Kano-Katsina-Jibia to Maradi in Niger Republic.
TUC, in a statement by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary-General, Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi, in Abuja, said construction of a rail line to Niger Republic was an insult to Nigerians and a waste of scarce resources.
The statement read: “The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria has described the Federal Government’s approval for the construction of a rail line linking Nigeria to Niger Republic as an insult and waste of our scarce resources.
“By this latest move, it has indeed become obvious to the world that the managers of our country have ulterior and sinister motives: to ruin this country.
“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, $1.96 billion 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 a 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 it 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.
“Your Excellencies, there are many roads seeking attention throughout the country. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway services every vehicle coming into Lagos, including the ones from Kano, Katsina and Dutse; why has it not been completed?
“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.
“Since someone fainted during the National Assembly probe of the Commission, we have not heard anything again on the matter.
“It is shameful it happened at a time our ‘incorruptible’ president holds sway. 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.
“We must set our priorities right because Nigeria is becoming a laughing stock to the whole world. Tinkering with such ideas at a time the electricity tariff has been increased and fuel price hiked is indeed suicidal.
“Nigeria should stop playing big brother at the expense of Nigerians. This government is not being fair to Nigerians. Simple.”
Meanwhile Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, says the federal government is not constructing a rail line into Niger Republic but to a designated border point.
Shehu’s statement contradicts the one made by Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, who said the government had approved $1.96 billion for the construction of a rail line into Niger Republic.
Speaking with journalists after a federal executive council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, Amaechi said the rail line would start from Kano and terminate at Maradi in Niger Republic.
But on Twitter on Thursday, the presidential spokesman said both countries agreed to construct rail lines to meet at the border town of Maradi.
“Nigeria isn’t building a rail line into Niger but, only to the designated Border point,” Shehu tweeted.
“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 and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources as well as those of Kano and 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 subregion, starting with the neighboring Niger Republic for their export and import logistic chain.”