By Lucy Ogalue
Abuja, Oct. 19, 2020 Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has called on the people from South East and South South to work together to enable them foster growth in the region.
Amaechi, in a statement to newsmen on Monday, made the call during an interactive session with the South East, South South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN) in Lagos.
Naija247news reports that SESSPN invited the Minister to address some concerns of the people which included security, power, economic and social integration and representation in government.
Amaechi said, “We fight a lot among ourselves. In South South and South East we fight amongst ourselves. I’m saying this so that we can separate emotions from reality.
“Today, it is not about President Muhammadu Buhari. It is about us. This administration is doing a lot, but because it is President Buhari, we pretend not to see it.
“We complain about lopsided appointments. Apart from the area of security, have you checked other areas side by side?
“The President will appoint someone from the South East and people from the same region will fight against the appointment, if you are the President, how will you feel?
“When we took office, the President asked us to complete all projects left by previous administrations before starting new ones. We did that and it was across all regions.
“We completed Port Harcourt Airport, we are working on Enugu Airport; Enugu-Onitsha road, work is going on, no matter how slow.
“The second Niger bridge in Onitsha is 48 per cent completed and we have assured the country that by 2022 it will be completed.”
On rail projects, Amaechi said “What informs my decision of choosing which rail line to construct at any point in time, is the economics of the project.
“And currently, the economics show that Lagos to Kano has the capacity to move 30 million tonnes of cargo per year. I do the same analysis for Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, 11 million tonnes. We are currently doing the analysis for Lagos to Calabar to know how many tonnes of cargo can be moved there per year. So we started with the Lagos to Kano rail.
“President Olusegun Obasanjo approved it, President Goodluck Jonathan started the construction by doing Abuja to Kaduna and President Buhari told us to complete all previous projects.
“Now, we are applying for US$11-billion loan to construct Lagos to Calabar rail. There was no design for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. We knew that the first thing to do was to commence a feasibility study, after that we did the design.”
On Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, Amaechi said the President instructed that all rails in Nigeria must be standard gauge, which neccesitated a standard gauge design.
He said:” When we finished, we got approval from the President, but I realised that we may not get the money in this government.
“I changed my course, and I said, while we are looking for money for the standard gauge for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, let me ask for money to reconstruct the narrow-gauge at US$ 3.1 billion.
“And the President after much argument, agreed that we can proceed with the narrow-gauge, while seeking for money to construct the standard gauge.
“At least, I’m sure that before we leave government we would have done up to 80 per cent of that rail.”
“Also, there was no line to Owerri, I added Owerri to the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail design, because of the Industrial Park and the University of Transportation in Ubima”, Amaechi added.
The minister decried safe anchorage issues which had delayed the government’s maritime security project from commencing operations.
According to him, the deep blue project which has most of its surveillance equipment already on ground will ensure end to end surveillance and safety of Nigeria’s waterways and encourage usage of all ports in the South South.
“The problem with maritime in Nigeria is insecurity. There are rich Nigerians who do bunkering. Next are those who escort vessels, another is the OMSL group who say they are protecting vessels and so on.
“We have a disadvantage where those who are making the money will not allow you provide the security.”
Meanwhile, the President of SESSPN, Hannibal Uwaifo, while welcoming the Minister, urged people of the region to collaborate with the government irrespective of their political party affiliation to help promote the region.
“It is those of us who are exposed, those of us who are professionals that can put heads together with our people in government to overcome these challenges. We must improve our game in order to get a better tomorrow for our children,” Uwaifo said.