South-east Govs, Ekweremadu Meet with President

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Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari; Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and some South-east governors held a closed-door meeting yesterday to discuss issues relating to the development of the zone.

Apart from Ekweremadu accompanied the governors of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu states to the meeting.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, said the meeting was basically about issues relating to the development of the South-east.

Umahi said there was nothing political about the meeting with President Buhari.

“It has no political intentions because these are economic issues and they are not new,” Umahi said.

Umahi noted that “He (President Buhari) has assured us that he is going to look into the issues and of course on the issue of railway, we were given a cheering news that not only that the railway will be awarded to touch all states capitals in South-east, it will also touch most of other state capitals as it moves from South-east to Maiduguri.

“And there will also be a port that will be added to it and it will cost about $12 billion. He said they are yet to bring it to Federal Executive Council meeting; so, they intend to do so.

“And of course with the borrowing plan being approved by the senate, they are going to fast track the issue of construction in the South-east.”

According to him, “We came to thank the president on behalf of South-east for the award of the second Niger Bridge to Julius Berger at the sum of N206 billion. We understand that N7 billion has been paid as mobilisation. So, we came to ask the president if there is the possibility of paying up to 50 per cent of the sum and secure the other 50 per cent as bond so that we can sleep with our two eyes closed and be assured that the job will not be abandoned.

“We also requested that the construction period be reduced from 42 months to 24 months. We made it clear to Julius Berger that it is achievable.

“We are also asking for economic free trade zone in Eyimba in Abia State and he promised to come and commission it. The license has been issued.We also thanked him for that economic free trade zone.

“And then we talked about the Enugu International Airport. We asked him to deploy the cargo section of the airport, complete the building and extend the runway and also rebuild the runway because it is very bumpy and the tarmac light is not functioning.

“Now that the rains are gone, the contractors are complaining of lack of funding. So, we requested that he (President Buhari) should do something about the funding.

“Of course, we talked about the Geometric Power Plant in Aba so that he can assist in resolving whatever the issues are and ensure that power is deployed to the industrial clusters in Aba and environs.

“We reminded him that the Enugu State Government has done quite a lot on the issue of relocating major infrastructure that has been obstructing smooth operations of lives. We requested that he should take over the compensations of the affected lands.

“Of course, the issue of gas distribution should be linked to the five eastern states to the industrial clusters, so as to boost economic activities.

“The railway of course, we complained that the western corridor is going on and the eastern corridor has not been awarded. And the eastern corridor goes through Port Harcourt, Aba, Ebonyi, Enugu and Maiduguri. We requested that the contract should be awarded so that we can benefit from that project.”

Meanwhile, a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu noted that the president has assured that all ongoing federal projects in the South-east will be funded, saying that the seven-month delay in passing this year’s budget will not serve as an excuse.

Garba said in course of the meeting with South-east Governors, President Buhari pledged that the federal government will sustain the support to the South-east in terms of infrastructure.

‘‘I assure you that we are doing our best and will not default on the agreements signed on ongoing projects,’’ the president told the delegation.