The Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Toby Okechukwu, has reacted to the recent claims by the Eastern District Manager of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, Mr. Osidipe Olusoji, that the Enugu State Government was frustrating Federal Government’s efforts to extend its standard gauge railway project to the South East by demolishing some NRC’s facilities.
UGAMATV learnt that Okechukwu cautioned the NRC against any conducts or utterances capable of derailing the reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport for flight operations on schedule, advising the parastatal to instead declare details and scope of the said effort by the Federal Government as the leaders of the region would be glad to play their parts to ensure its actualisation.
The lawmaker, who stated these in statement he issued in Abuja on Wednesday, commended Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Governors of the South East region for staying the course in in pursuing the reconstruction and reopening the airport.
He emphasised that the actions of the Government of Enugu State was in line with the requests by the Federal Airports Authority and the decision of the South East Governors Forum to remove all encumbrances to safe and international flight operations at the airport.
While welcoming any Federal Government intervention in the Eastern Railway corridor, Okechukwu however, stated that “the opening of the airport should not be frustrated as it has economic consequences both for local and international businesses”.
“It does appear that some of these things are orchestrated to ensure that the airport does not commence operations as planned. This surreptitious distraction, including the demolition of the airport’s fence, and claim of standard gauge for the railway is quite dramatic and surprising”, he said.
“For the first time, managers of the Eastern Rail corridor are talking. It is quite surprising that the Railway Corporation is doing any work to upgrade the Eastern Railway Corridor to a standard gauge without the knowledge of the host communities, including the host Governor of Enugu State and the South East Governors Forum.
“In any case, such upgrade is very welcome and is actually what we have been advocating and the region is very ready to cooperate. We still continue to appeal to the Federal Government and the Railway Corporation to make Eastern Rail Line effective because of it’s consequential effect on the citizens, especially the people of South South, South East, North Central, and North East regions. It will also put to rest some of the restiveness in these areas.
“We are equally pleased that attention is being paid to the eastern ports in recent times, especially with the arrival of huge vessel at Onne Port. Our expectation is that the evacuation of goods and products from this port will require railway services as well.
“However, we expect full disclosures. The NRC should define its scope of work and deliverables.
“Besides, both FAAN and NRC belong to the Federal Government and are expected to be complementary in their nature of services”, he added.
The lawmaker, who represents Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency, recalled how the railway subway on Ogui Ogui Enugu used to be a tourist attraction and how, as a teenager, he travelled from Enugu to Zaria by rail on his way to Dutsina-Ma in Katsina State, bemoaned the fact that railway had retrogressed to a level where much of the rail lines had become moribund.
He said if the NRC could not give the nation a modern railway, especially on the Eastern Rail corridor, it should at least return the country to the good old days rather than distract the Enugu State Government in its efforts to get the Enugu airport working again.