Dear Madam President,
Permit me to use this medium to post this letter to you.
I have followed your activities since you assumed the leadership of National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, Like most of our members, I find your actions and dispositions commendable and the tonic the Organized Private Sector, OPS, needed to advance our interest and contribute to the economic development of NIGERIA; our dear country.
I was prompted to write to you because of your deep patriotism which you have demonstrated ever since your inauguration. Your relationship with City Chambers, your stand on national issues and composition of the NACCIMA committees are few examples of your all inclusive national leadership.
People who know me will never associate me with sycophancy; therefore accept my tribute as an appreciation from a heart that saw a leader that pursues issues and subjects that have positive bearings to our country and to the OPS in particular, with good intent and purpose.
I always remember with fondness the pains on your face when you visited Anambra State Deputy Governor on the eve of my inauguration and told the audience that the state of the Federal Road while coming from Enugu airport to Awka was unacceptable. And that you will take it up with the Federal Government to ensure the ugly situation is remedied. Either coincidentally or you probably intervened, work has started on that road again. Your concern when you spoke about that road was sincere, and your sincerity humbled me.
But this letter is not about the road. It is about a more important infrastructure. It is about the economic development of NIGERIA.
The controversy trailing the railway corridor in Nigeria will not go away until equity is applied to its design and implementation. And this letter is about the railway.
Without trying to sound political, permit me to refresh a statement made by Alhaji Lai Mohamed while responding to Chief Obasanjo’s letter to President Buhari where He said and I quote;
“RAIL: Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge is on. Lagos-Ibadan sector ready 2019, Kano-Kaduna ready 2019; the entire stretch ready 2021; Negotiations on for Coastal Rail covering 15 cities from Lagos to Calabar”.
Recall that Abuja – Kaduna rail is up and running with additional 10 new couches added few weeks ago. If you juxtapose that with the above statement mentioning
Lagos-Kano, Lagos-Ibadan, and Kano-Kaduna, the question is why are we only at the negotiation table for the only railway route reaching Calabar up till this moment? More worrisome is the fact that nobody can say for sure the exact route the Lagos-Calabar will follow, if cities like Onitsha, Nnewi and Aba will be connected knowing the importance of these cities to the economic development of the South East and Nigeria in general.
A senator from Abia State, Mr. Enyinnaya Abaribe once raised a motion on the floor of the senate lamenting the absence of railway plan for the South East. When the Minister for Transport responded, he said that Eastern railway was scheduled for concessionaires to build. In fact he used the words “Coastal railway corridor”. Now the implication of the minister’s statement is that until a concessionaire is appointed (which they have not done up till now), the South East zone will not benefit from the current railway projects. More worrisome is the word “coastal” which naturally excludes more than 95% of the entire South East.
In the absence of workable transport system in Nigeria, the new standard gauge railway will change the economy route in Nigeria and create new business opportunities. Therefore any region without access to the national railway will simply collapse because they cannot benefit from cheaper means of transporting people and goods. The implication of not connecting South East, and fast too, is that the zone will be economically disadvantaged and locked out of the national economic recovery.
I represent a city chamber whose members are deeply concerned about this. And there are limits to where my voice can be heard.
Why did I choose you instead of our legislators? Is it proper for NACCIMA to intervene on issues like this? Does it have a political undertone?
Two out of the four cardinal objectives of NACCIMA include the following:
a) Promotion, protection and development of all matters affecting BUSINESS.
b) Contribution of ideas for the overall economic stability of the NATION.
If we don’t make a case for the inclusion of the South East in the national railway plan, we will be denying them these cardinal objectives NACCIMA stands for. And you, Iyalode Alaba Lawson have a voice that shall be listened to with reason and with economic considerations by the government. Your voice will elevate this issue to national discourse and redirect our government to see the economic implication of not connecting the entire country with the standard gauge railway, simultaneously.
We plead that you lend your voice and draw government attention to this glaring omission and delay.
Don Ebubeogu is the president, Onitsha Chamber of Commerce. Connect with him on Email:
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.