In debunking allegation by the South East Governors that the zone has been marginalized by the Federal Government in infrastructural development, Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claimed that there were a total of 69 Federal Government projects already executed in the South East, and that the zone had got a whopping N16.6 billion worth of projects.
While we may not be in a position to counter Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s claim, all we want is for the Minister, as a man of honour and integrity (forget about what some people say that the man has the capacity to turn black into white), to come down to the South East and show us where those 69 projects are located, and what the N16.6 billion allocated to the zone by the Federal Government was able to do.
As my people would always say, what you can tell a blind person is that the food he is eating has no oil, and not that the food has no salt. And as another saying goes, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.
To that extent therefore, we do not think that the Port Harcourt – Enugu Road, a road that touches all the five states in the South East, or the Enugu – Onitsha Road, even if they decide to break these two roads into hundred parts, counting each part as a project, is part of the so-called 69 projects executed by the Federal Government in the South East.
If you doubt it, we invite the Honourable Minister to accompany us on a brief tour to some parts of the South East. We will take off from Aba, through Umuahia Tower, to Okigwe, Lokpanta, Awgu to Enugu. And then, we will veer off from Enugu through Ugwu Onyeama, Imezi Owa, Obinofia, Oji River, through Amanse, Awkuzu, Umunya, Nkpor, and down to Onitsha. By the time we might have completed this excursion, we are sure the Honourable Minister would be looking for the next orthopedic hospital to fix his broken waste.
If it is not for the foresight and ingenuity of the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who rebuilt the Milleken Hill and repaired the old Enugu – Onitsha road through Udi, Oji River Town, to Ugwuoba, and end at the boundary between Enugu and Anambra States, these two neighbouring states would have since severed links because the federal expressway road linking them has since completely broken down.
We do not want to talk about the several other federal roads in the South East that suffer abandonment and abject neglect, such as the Onitsha – Owerri Road, the Enugu to Obollo Afor road, through Ninth Mile Corner to Oturkpo in Benue State, etc., and not even the several erosion sites in the area that are threatening to submerge many communities in the South East.
The Minister has told us that the first, second, and third stages of the Second Niger Bridge have been completed. We take it to be so, and hail him. However, have we not told been just some few weeks ago by those who were in the position to know, in particular, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Works, Toby Okechukwu, that the Bureau for Public Procurement was delaying the process for the award of contract for the Second Niger Bridge? So, how come that the three stages of work in the bridge have already been completed? Interesting.
We would like the Honourable Minister to tell us the situation of work at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. Is that airport part of the 69 projects already completed by the federal government in the South East?
Why is it that before 2015, rail services, operated by the Nigerian Railway Corporation were running between Enugu and Port Harcourt, but ever since after then, rail services have stopped running in the area, while the Abuja to Kaduna rail link, and the Lagos to Kano rail link, are all operating smoothly, even with increased services?
We are not saying that Lai Mohammed is lying, or that the 69 projects are fake news, because it is possible that while they may exist, they are not on the priority list of the people of the South East. On the other hand, it is possible that some people may have since been smiling to their banks claiming that had executed 69 projects in the South East.
Whatever be the case, all we are praying the Honourable Minister to do is to come down personally to the South East and show us where these 69 federal projects exist, because as they say, seeing is believing.