Budget Defence: Amaechi faces baptism of fire

“I’m from Port Harcourt… I am an Ikwerre man”, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation thundered when he faced a committee of the National Assembly Thursday.

He was responding to questions fired at him by prying lawmakers who are grilling heads of MDAs that are currently defending their budgets before the National Assembly.

Lawmakers on the Committee had wanted to know why the narrow gauge in the South East is being retained when standard gauge tracks are being built in the North and the South West.

“I approached the President with two proposals”, Amaechi revealed, saying that the idea to run a stretch of narrow gauge tracks was necessitated by a desire to ensure that the South East zone enjoys rail services.

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He said that the Ministry of Transportation is trying to raise about 14 billion United States dollars to provide standard gauge rail lines in the South East.

While funds are being sought for standard gauge development in the South East, the Minister revealed that he equally approached the President with a request for the reconstruction of the narrow gauge, which runs from Port Harcourt, upwards to the North.

The line of questioning however pursued by members of the committee that grilled Amaechi (who hails from the South South),  suggested that Nigerians in areas that fall within the South East corridor under the Federal Government’s rail line development plan are probably not enjoying a fair deal.

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There is a growing feeling within the South South and the South East that the Federal Government is deliberately sidelining the two geopolitical zones.

Apparently dismissing such an imputation, Amaechi said there is no need to introduce what he described as undue sentiments into the matter.

He said that under the ‘two – rail – line – proposal’ approach approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, the availability of funds would determine whether a standard or narrow gauge system would be put in place in the South East.

“I am from Port Harcourt”, Amaechi who rose to his own defence stressed, “I am an Ikwerre man.”