As the federal government secures legislative approvals to embark on another round of external borrowing to finance the 2020 budget, a member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Toby Okechukwu, has expressed disappointment over the exclusion of some key federal infrastructures cited through the Eastern Corridor.
Okechukwu, a member representing Aninri, Awgu and Ojiriver Federal Constituency of Enugu State, is the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, who has been a vocal advocate of proportional capturing of every geopolitical zone in the government borrowing plan as far as capital allocation of same is concerned.
In a swift reaction to the adopted report on the $22.799 billion external loan, Rep. Okechukwu argued that the “approval of the loan does not meet the expectations of our people.”
“Because first and foremost, there are certain strategic projects that ought to be there. First the Western Corridor Rail line which goes from Lagos to Kano and the Eastern Corridor Rail line that goes from Port Harcourt through Enugu to Makurdi, Plateau down to Maiduguri.
“They were established the same day, there were commenced the same day, they were completed the same day they were operating. So to take one in exclusion of the other is not appropriate.
“Secondly, it is an infrastructural sufficient to give impetus to the eastern corridor passing through South South, South East, North Central and North East.
“And if you check all these areas what you’ll see, is that we have trouble from Boko Haram to agitations to militancy; we have challenges in these areas and when you don’t undertake economic activities that will improve it, you are not helping. So it is our considered opinion that — that should have been a priority,” he said.
The lawmaker how commended the leadership effort of the House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila to enable the capturing of all excluded regions or states, said he would have rather the eastern corridor is included now as part of the development plan.
“We appreciate the effort of Mr. Speaker in terms of trying by all means for the past 4 months to accommodate these Lines but of course there was no initiation for it and this is where you find out that the budget or loan approval is as good as not benefitting our poeple…but we need to think globally.
“We looked at this as Nigerians and our expectation is that there should have been some more prudence to this effect. So we appreciate the proviso that there should be South East in the next borrowing plan but it’s a promissory note.
“If you go to the bank if it’s your bank you’re lucky because it must be initiated, so we felt that this loan approval should have waited until they complete the feasibility so that the South East, North East are sufficiently accommodated.
“It is not there, I need no science to know that the North east and South East have always come last in budgetary appropriations. So there are some reasons why those places are restive. So our expectation is what we are borrowing is omnibus.
“We are taking this 22 billion, we are going to take another 4.5 billion to fund the budget, the next season we are going to take another £4 billion for power, so at which point are you going to accommodate the South East. And that is why we said look this is the proper time to do it.
“And it is simply because the Executive is not willing. They are not able to do that and at the Parliamentary level we are expecting that at the appropriate level that should have been taken into consideration,” Rep. Okechukwu noted.