Clark tasks Tinubu on Niger Delta roads, railway projects

Clark tasks Tinubu on Niger Delta roads, railway projects

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Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark has written an open letter to President Bola Tinubu over the state of infrastructural development in the Niger Delta region particularly roads and railway projects, which he, pointed out, had been planned but abandoned.

However, he praised the administration for its recent decision to award the coastal road stretching from Lagos to Calabar, assuring of the region’s support for its implementation and completion.

He said if completed, the landmark project will change the landscape of infrastructural development in Nigeria.

Asserting that it is particularly pleasing to note that the project is being executed as a Public/Private Partnership (PPP), the foremost South-South leader affirmed: “This means that a substantial portion of the funding, which is over ₦1trillion, will be coming from the private sector. I assure you that we will not only endorse this project but will fully extend our support to ensure its completion especially at the areas of the Niger Delta where it will pass through.

“Like Oliver Twist, the Niger Delta people are seriously requesting Mr. President to give priority to the very important project which will no doubt cater for the security and welfare of our people having regards to the role of the the region in supporting the economy of the entire country.

“The Coastal Road, therefore, could not be a substitution to our immediate requirement. It is estimated that the portion being constructed by the contractor from the Lagos end, may take at least two years to complete before moving to the second phase.”

He reminded the president of coastal railway running through the same axis has been abandoned.

He recalled that the 1,402 kilometres rail line had been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) with a budget of $11.17 billion in 2021 under President Muhammadu Buhari. Clark stayed: “I am sure Mr. President not only me but many Nigerians will like to know what has happened to this very important coastal rail line project.

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“This is especially as we know that other rail projects including to neighbouring Niger Republic are going on very well as recently reported by the Minister of Transportation.”

The former federal commissioner for information called on the president to immediately cause the extension of the Warri-Itakpe railway line to Abuja.

He stressed: “The Ujevwu Railway line, Warri which runs through many towns and villages in Delta, Edo, and Kogi States and was earlier built for the purpose of transportation of steel materials from Delta Steel Company (DSC) Aladja, Warri, to Ajaokuta Steel Mill, Kogi State, was abandoned when DSC Aladja, Warri was no longer functioning. We were all very happy when the services of the railway line were converted to commercial enterprise which enable Delta, Edo and Kogi states to travel through the rail line.

“The services had been very successful and the most popular, secured and reliable means of transportation in Nigeria at the moment, and people are now demanding for the extension of the rail line to Abuja as a matter of urgency, particularly at this time when our roads are not only collapsed but insecure posing as death traps to commuters.

“Your Excellency, we are pleading with you to choose this extension of this rail line to Abuja as a matter of urgency and the people will be very grateful to you.”

The leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) also complained about the abandonment of the East-West road.

He said: “The other matter that bothers me is the jinx which has been following the historic East-West Road. This road which is supposedly 419 kilometres covers from the extreme west of Warri in Delta State to Oron in Akwa Ibom State. Unfortunately, each administration that comes into power and each minister that have been in charge of the project have vowed that they would complete the project during their time.”

According to him, “the East-West road remains an ugly stain on Nigeria’s Political Administrative logic, especially for something considered a Signature Project, because of its economic significance. No substantial inch of construction work has been added in the 8 years of the Buhari Administration. Sections of the road supposedly constructed were washed away like whitewash on walls by the 2022 floods, obviously due to the poor standard of work done.

“Finally on East West road, I am disappointed and embarrassed to say that President Goodluck Jonathan did not pressurised the completion of the East West road, but he allowed the Ministers to do what they like on their own. I still remember the clash between Godsday Orubebe and Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi over the East West road. As the Chairman of the occasion at the event, I called on President Goodluck Jonathan not to leave the Niger Delta poorer than he met it through my address in 2011.”

He also spoke about the poor conditions of the Calabar-Itu, Benin-Warri-Sapele, and the Boddo-Bonny road projects.

He stated: “I went further to states that from the available information, in terms of kilometres (length of the roads), the South-South has the least with only 52.2 kilometres.

“The North Central had 1,479.9 kilometres; North West had; North East had; South-East had 122 kilometres and South West had 119 kilometres.

“The question we asked at the time was what were the reasons for such an absurd distribution? What was the yardstick?

“Finally, it is at this juncture I want to urge you Mr. President, for you to use your authority and stamp your name in gold by completing these priority roads and make it a thing of the past. This also has a moral implication because this is where the wealth of the country i.e. Money from oil comes from and it is a matter of equity and fairness that we have a good road on which people can pass.

“Once more, Mr. President, I want to assure you that on such noble effort, you can count on my support and that of the entire people of the south-south.

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