THE Senate has urged the Federal Government to prioritise the rehabilitation and concession agreement for the railway, in recognition of the huge revenue potentials of the Eastern rail line to the economy.
The resolution, which also factored the importance of movement of people to ease the reliance on the dilapidated roads in the South East, followed a motion on “Urgent Need to resuscitate and Re-activate the Rehabilitation and Concession of the Eastern Rail line Project.”
During plenary, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC-Abia) sponsored the motion with 101 senators as co-sponsors.
Kalu identified poor infrastructure as a challenge facing the nation’s economy and said, “the movement of goods and persons from one point to another is becoming very cumbersome, if not hazardous.”
The lawmaker noted that the Federal Government knows the need for the transformation of the rail system into a more functional one, and encouraged the use of rail to reduce road traffic congestion.
He said that in spite of the advantages inherent in the rail system, and the high potential of the Eastern rail line, it was denied the same attention given to the Western rail line.
Kalu said: “In spite of being the most lucrative route in Nigeria and a distance of about 1, 402 km passing through Aba in Abia, the commercial nerve center of the South East is regrettably left in a comatose condition.
“This has resulted in the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), losing at least N10. 4 billion each year since 2014, totaling N63.2 billion in the past six years.
“In spite this colossal loss of revenue in this corridor and the attendant economic benefits that would be accrued, the commencement of the rehabilitation and concession of the Eastern Rail lines as entered by the Executive has not taken off like that of the Western corridor.
“The Federal Executive Council is yet to give approval for the commencement, which leaves not just the government as losers, but all host communities to the rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.”
Senator Rochas Okorocha (APC-Imo) said that “such great projects or programmes like the railway shouldn’t be such that this nation has to be reminded of where it should go or where it should not go because the benefit to one part of this nation is a benefit to all.
“Abia, South-East is not on its own without the others parts of this nation and what that means, Mr President is that once this rail passes through Abia, it will not be used only by the Igbo or the South-East; it is for the entire Nigeria.”
The Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice said that the development of the Eastern Corridor would solve so many problems including easing the problems of transportation and reduce the incident of road accidents.
He noted: “The incidence of accidents in the eastern part of the country is so dangerous, this axis of rail system is going to reduce the incident of accidents on the roads.
“Movements of goods and services by rail will also reduce the incidents of armed robbery.”
The senators unanimously adopted the motion after a voice vote by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.
Meanwhile the Senate mandated its Committee on Land Transport to interface with the relevant ministry and agencies of the Executive to facilitate the commencement of the Eastern corridor.
It also mandated its Committee on Compliance to ensure compliance and report to Senate in three weeks for further legislative action.