By Malachy Onummadu
The halting of the Eastern Rail project by the Federal Government , has generated lots of reactions and concerns from Nigerians as well as other major stakeholders in the transport industry . The only reason given by the Minister of Transportation,Muazu Sambo for the suspension of the Eastern Rail project is the level of insecurity as well as vandalization of the rail infrastructure in the construction site. To so many people, this reason is not cogent enough for the suspension as insecurity is not peculiar to the South or South East alone.
Given the above reasons why the eastern rail line was halted, it becomes pertinent to ask if the action of the government is justified or not .
Government hinged its argument on insecurity. One is therefore forced to ask : Is insecurity only witnessed in the Southern part of Nigeria? Is insecurity an issue peculiar to the South alone? Has insecurity halted other projects initiated by the Federal Government at other regions and geopolitical zones?. The answer to these questions is a capital no. Regardless of the high level of insecurity in the North-East, North-West and North-Central geopolitical zones, there are ongoing project of the Federal Government in these geopolitical zones. Such projects that are going on in the Northern Regions include the Dualization of Shuarin-Azare section of the Kano-Maiduguri road linking Kano-Jigawa-Bauchi –Yobe, Dualization of Potiskun-Damaturu section of Kano—Jigawa-Maiduguri road, Dam and Hydro Power Plant in Taraba State to connect it to the national grid, construction of 29MW Dadin Kowa Hydro Power Plant in Gombe state which is still ongoing to mention only but a few. In the same vein, the Abuja- Kaduna rail which came under attack some few months ago, where scores were kidnapped and others killed by armed bandits, is receiving attention from the Federal Ministry of Transport as the minister has indicated interest in reviving the rail and beefing up security as well as installing cameras to secure the railway infrastructures as well as the lives of the passengers. Could it not be right that the Federal Government take the same measure on the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail project, instead of suspending the project on the issues of vandalism and insecurity? .
Right from the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the Southern region especially the South-East has suffered a high level of marginalization. This marginalization has become visible in the various activities of the Federal Government, ranging from appointments, award of projects and contracts, etc. The Enugu-Onitsha expressway has been a death trap for commuters and this has lasted for many years and counting, the dualization of the second Niger bridge has been on a slow pace for more than twenty years now with little progress in recent times.
In the interest of peace and equity, it is important that the Federal Government should reverse the suspension of the Eastern rail project and put in place security measures to ensure the completion of that project. This will go a long way in ameliorating the sufferings of the people and more employment opportunities will be created.