PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has dumfounded Nigerian political watchers by planning to spend $1.95bn on an inexplicable railway line linking Kano with the city of Maradi in neighbouring Niger Republic.
Yesterday, a Federal Executive Council presided over by President Buhari approved a contract to build the line linking Kano-Dutse-Katsina and Jibia to Maradi in Niger Republic. Transport minister Rotimi Amaechi who revealed the news, said that the 248km line is designed to connect Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states as well as seven senatorial districts and will aid transportation of crude oil.
However, the move had dumbfounded everyone, as Maradi, with a population of just 267,249 people has no significant economic value. It would have made more sense were the line being constructed to Niger Republic’s capital Niamey, which has a population of 1.24m people and is the country’s economic hub.
Also, if the aim is to boost crude oil exports to Niger Republic, it would make more economic sense to construct a pipeline. Given that Nigeria has an annual infrastructural deficit of $100bn and a mere budget of $28.8bn, the development has attracted widespread condemnation as it is seen as wasteful and a misplaced priority, especially at the moment, when the Covid-19 lockdown has hit the economy hard.
Nigeria’s opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some civil rights groups have taken a swipe at the government, saying the country is facing intractable problems of insecurity and harsh economic conditions arising from hikes in fuel price and electricity tariff. They have thus questioned the justification for spending almost $2bn of taxpayers money on a project with no visible economic value.
PDP national publicity secretary Kola Ologbindiyan, said: “The problem of this regime is that it has never got its priorities right and at the end of the day, Nigerians are the ones who suffer from these poor choices by these people. Let’s even look at it from the point of view of the economy.
“What is the economic benefit of this project to Nigeria. The Nigerian economy, as it is today, is not in a state to contain this kind of wasteful spending.”