By Lucy Ogalue
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said that ethnicity is a big challenge to development in Nigeria.
Amaechi, in a statement on Friday, said rail projects around the country were built for the growth of the economy rather than ethnic biases.
He identified what he called politicising of railway development as one of the major challenges hindering government’s effort to stimulate the economy.
Amaechi, who was speaking as a guest lecturer at the Annual Public Lecture of the Department of Economics at the University of Lagos, noted that transportation as a mode involved logistics.
He added that transportation is responsible for driving the economies of nations; virtually everything we do involves transportation.
”It is a key element in driving development of economies all over the world and it creates possibilities for other sectors; therefore, you can’t even create employment if you don’t create logistics.
“Nigerians are too ethnically conscious. You think first as your ethnicity before you think as a Nigerian.
”Ethnicity is putting pressure on the economics of railway construction. What you hear is, ‘I’m a Yoruba man, I’m an Hausa man, I’m an Igbo man.”
According to him, the Yoruba man is happy that we have done Lagos-Ibadan; the moment you do railway up to Enugu, the Igbo man would be happy. I call it the politicisation of railway construction.
“Railway is fuelled by economic activities, it’s not fuelled by tribe. What determines a railway construction is economics, how many tons of cargo can be conveyed.
“Ethnicity is not the way to go. Those who fan the embers of ethnicity are those who were benefitting from the government in the past, but are no longer benefitting from the government,” he said.
Amaechi also said financing was another challenge of railway development as Nigerians keep complaining about loans.
He said: “From the budget, we are now constructing Kaduna-Kano rail line while still negotiating the loan for Ibadan to Kaduna, because the plan is Lagos to Kano.
”So far, the Federal Government has laid out plans for the construction of Lagos-Calabar at 11.1 billion dollars, Ibadan-kano at 5.3 billion dollars for single track and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri at U3.02 billion dollars for reconstruction of narrow gauge.
”It earmarked 12 to 13 billion dollars for standard gauge approved by the President with additional spurs, Abuja-Itakpe at 3.9 billion dollars in addition to the central line; and Lagos-Ibadan completed at 2 billion dollars,” he explained.