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Why I begged Niger Republic to let Nigeria construct free railway for them – Amaechi

THE Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has broken his silence on why the Federal Government is constructing the $1.95b railway from Kano State into Maradi in Niger Republic.

Amaechi, who said he personally travelled to Niger Republic to prevail on the government to allow Nigeria to do the construction, said, the move will help Nigeria compete and expand its economy.

He explained that Niger Republic is a landlocked country and has to rely on entrepot trade which means it has to export and import through intermediary countries.

The minister said due to insecurity and poor road infrastructure as well as extortion by security agents, Niger Republic and Chad preferred exporting and importing their goods through Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo.

Amaechi said this on Channels Television’s ‘News Night’ programme last night.

The railway is expected to run from Kano to Dutse-Katsina through Jibia and will end at Maradi Niger Republic.

The minister recalled that his action had attracted harsh criticisms from some quarters who accused him of serving and promoting northern interest, even though his wife is Igbo and not a Northerner.

Amaechi said, “It is like the shout about Kano-Maradi rail. I said my wife is Igbo. She is not from Maradi. The worst is that they will say I am serving the interest of the North. Let’s assume that is the argument you will make; the worst I can do is stop at Jibia which is the border.

“To even get to Maradi I had to travel to Niger Republic to even beg them. They are not bringing their money. It is our money. But I’m begging them to allow me access into Maradi.”

Amaechi added, “Why are they not exporting through Nigeria? They say ‘o, your roads are bad’. So, the railway takes care of that. They say customs is difficult, customs will impose charges that are not charged in Benin Republic.

“They say immigration does not allow them. Even when they pass all these, there are police checkpoints on the road, customs checkpoints on the road, immigration checkpoints on the road. Then communities have their own checkpoints on the road, armed robbers attack them on the road. So, they prefer to go where it is safe and cheaper to do business.

“So, all we are saying is we come to Maradi, we build offices, we build a warehouse, you put your things in the warehouse, you deal with customs at Maradi, deal with immigration at Maradi, deal with police, whatever you need to check. Once you put the goods on top of the wagon, it goes straight to Lagos. When it gets to Lagos, straight to the ship because the things you would do in Lagos, you would have done in Maradi.”

The minister also berated the National Assembly for obstructing the facilitation of Chinese loans due to the controversial sovereignty clause.

He took a swipe at the National Assembly because a panel in the House of Representatives had in July 2020 raised the alarm over clauses conceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in a loan agreement.

Amaechi, however, argued that the unnecessary probe had stalled funding for the Ibadan to Kano rail.

Nigeria constructed the Kano to Maradi railway with $1.95b loan secured from China.

Many Nigerians, especially economic experts, have expressed fear over the growing debt profile of the country.

But the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, in January, assured Nigerians that there was nothing to fear as nations across the world borrow to facilitate infrastructural development same thing the country is doing.

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