From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
South East Elders Forum has urged the Federal Government to address exclusion of the zone from its proposed modernisation of railway lines.
Besides, the elders also bemoaned non-performance of the zone’s lawmakers in the National Assembly.
Convener of the forum, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, in Nnewi, Anambra State, explained that the elders had got wind of the federal government’s move to raise about $5.185 billion from a foreign bank, with the approval of the National Assembly, to embark on modernisation of railway lines along Lagos-Ibadan-Kano-Kaduna axis without considering the South East zone for the same project.
“So far, not much has been done about Port Harcourt-Enugu-Jos-Maiduguri railway line. One wonders why.
“We would like to know the reason for that, whether this is another example of exclusion or another example of, you don’t matter to us, you don’t deserve an economic equation in railway construction in the country,” Ikedife noted.
He said in many countries, railway transport still remained popular means of transportation and wondered why the South East railway flank did not seem to matter to the Federal Government.
Ikedife explained that the forum would also switch attention to many Federal roads in the South East which were neglected for a long period, despite the danger the roads posed in the zone.
He cited Oba-Amichi-Arondizuogo-Okigwe Federal highway which he said had been abandoned for decades despite the fact that it constituted a death trap to users and a safe haven for hoodlums who attacked travellers at will. Giving the population of people concerned, the Igbo leader said the Federal Government should consider the economic importance of that road and some others in the same condition.
He argued that there was no justification to abandon Federal roads in the South East with the zone’s contributions to the economic mainstay of the nation.
“For years, it has been impossible to do many Federal roads in the South East and they remain impassable. Look at the whopping amount of money being spent in the maintenance of Federal roads. Billions of naira are being budgeted annually for road maintenance in the country, but, a small percentage is budgeted for road maintenance in the South East and South South.
“That makes one wonder whether these roads are good. The answer is no.”
While describing the issues raised as monumental marginalisation against the people of the South East, he said the forum would rob minds on that and see what pressure it could mount for the issue to be addressed.
Ikedife blamed the lawmakers of South East extraction and others from other zones for not performing optimally, saying they were only interested in legislating on matters that would favour them.