2ND NIGER BRIDGE: CHUKWUMERIJE ACCUSES OBASANJO OF STIFFLING S'EAST DEVELOPMENT
Former minister of information, Senator Uche Chukwumerije yesterday accused former president Olusegun Obasanjo of starving the states in the South-East of vital economic development projects throughout his eight-year administration because of the disdain he harboured for the region.
Senator Chukwumerije who was reacting to the recent award of the Second Niger Bridge project by President Goodluck Jonathan said the initiation of the project by the present administration marked the end of Chief Obasanjo's hypocrical attitude to the development of the South-East.
Commending President Jonathan for the initiative to cancel the initial Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for the Second River Niger Bridge project and replaced it with direct Federal Government funded contract, the senator representing Abia North said 'this hopefully marks the end of a pattern of loud hollow tokenism which Obasanjo regime reserved for the South-East in the guise of even-handed economic development of all parts of the federation'
According to him, the past regimes' attitude to the second Niger Bridge project is illustrative of Federal Government's hypocritical attention to economic development of the South-East zone and is aptly described as a pattern of tokenism for three reasons.
He noted that the adoption of the PPP option by President Obasanjo where the two host states were meant to contribute 20 per cent of the total cost was a decoy to see his government as a friend of the South East because it was a mere propaganda designed to get national applause whereas the government then never intended to spend a kobo.
Senator Chukwumerije who briefed senate correspondent on the project lamented 'beyond the huge sum spent on the profanely elaborate and loud celebration of the launch of a well contrived mirage, later events revealed that what was advertised to the nation as a project launch was a publicity stunt. No contract was signed'
The Senate who gave some breakdowns of road projects across the country to show how the South East was marginalized wondered why of all the mega projects initiated during Chief Obasanjo's tenure, it was only the second Niger Bridge that was confined to PPP whereas others were solely financed by the federal government.
'If strategic national importance is the criterion for direct federal funding, second Niger Bridge merits as much attention as these other mega projects. It is a major link to the whole length of eastern half of Nigeria, from Onitsha through Benue to North East, yet the two host states which can barely source enough funds for their internal development were nearly sentenced to the burden of PPP contributions.'
If only from the alleged single instance of double standards in road construction, Senator Chukwumerije called on President Jonathan to gain an insight into the the South East's basis for consistent cry about nationally contrived undeclared policy of deprivation and marginalization against its citizens virtually in all sectors.
He challenged the government to take an audit of the gross total sum of development capital spent by the federal government in each zones in the last 40 years, 'the result will be a sharp arrow at the conscience of a nation that has proclaimed three Rs since the end of the civil war'