Abuja, Lagos and Enugu — The $5.851 billion China Exim Bank loan request submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate may be stalled, as senators from the South East protest alleged exclusion of their geopolitical zone from the rail modernisation project nationwide.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) in a motion titled, "Outright Omission of Eastern Corridor Rail Line in the request for approval of Federal Government 2016-2015 External Borrowing (Rolling Plan)," said the exclusion is "inexplicable."
Also, the Apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has protested the exclusion of the zone from the multi-billion naira railway projects, describing it as an injustice.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo in a statement said there was no justification in excluding the region from the plan. But, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun while appearing before the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, headed by Senator Shehu Sani defended the loan request, saying the $5.815 billion loan was a comprehensive railway project for the entire nation.
Adeosun added that any loan request from China is tied to a condition and the condition is that the Chinese firm would execute the contracts involving the loan request, adding that the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail projects would be captured in the next loan request.
However, Chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani expressed concern that a Chinese firm approved a loan for Nigeria and would execute the project.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, assured the protesting lawmakers that the leadership of the Senate, had already taken a position of the non-inclusion of some parts of the country in the proposed modernisation.
He said the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts was already working on the loan request. Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East) who heads the Senate Committee on Land Transport, urged them to pass the loan request.
According to him, "the Calabar to Lagos coastal rail would pass through Obudu Cattle Ranch-Calabar-Uyo-Aba-PH-Yenagoa-Otuoke-Yenagoa-Ughelli-Sapele-Benin-Agbor-Asaba-Onitsha-Benin-Ijebu Ode- Ore-Sagamu-Lagos Seaports; and the Lagos-Kano: Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Minna-Kaduna-Kano."
"Hence it can be seen that the project touches at least two major states in the South East being Anambra (Onitsha) and Abia State (Aba)." The Senate resolved to summon the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to appear and explain the reasons for the exclusion of the Eastern corridor from the proposed loan from China Exim bank.