The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has condemned plans by the Federal Government to finance the second Niger Bridge and erosion project through concessional agreement and loans respectively, insisting that President Jonathan was not being sincere with the people of the zone.
National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, who spoke to journalists in Enugu, expressed regrets for President Jonathan’s pronouncements during his last visit to Anambra State, arguing that with such arrangement, Jonathan could not claim to have redeemed his campaign pledge to Ndigbo as the people would indirectly pay for the construction through toll fees.
APGA said it was of the opinion that President Jonathan, by planning to construct the Onitsha Bridge through concession arrangement, meant that the government had not made any financial commitment in the project, more so when the concessionaire was expected to recover the money invested in the project through toll gates that would be erected at entry points of the Onitsha and Asaba cities.
Umeh also recalled a similar statement by the Minister for Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the Federal Government would remedy the different erosion sites in the zone through a secured $450 million loan and wondered who would be responsible for paying back the loan. He said it would be disastrous if the states in the South-east were made to pay back the loan in a long term since the zone was financially bankrupt.
Umeh also cautioned political leaders in the South-east to be careful how they made pronouncements relating to endorsing any aspirant for 2015 general elections, saying the quest for Igbo presidency was a long time agitation dear to the hearts of Ndigbo who were tired of being spectators on the Nigeria political scene. Said he: “It is cheering news that construction work at the second Niger Bridge will commence in March 2013 but I was very worried that the second Niger Bridge will be concessioned to an international development consultant that will construct it and be expected to recover its funds.
“What that means is that the Federal Government is not part of the financing plan for the construction and that is why I am worried. It means that after the construction, tollgates will be mounted in Onitsha-Asaba, Onitsha-Owerri roads and maybe Ontisha-Enugu Road ends and our people will be paying for it.
“I also see a twin issue where the minister for finance was quoted to have said that about $450 million loan has been negotiated for fighting erosion in the South-east.” She said it would have a 10-year moratorium when there would be retirement, it would be interest free, then the loan would be repaid under 40 years.
“What this means is that Federal Government will bring the money for the South-east to fight erosion but what is not clear is if it is the Federal Government that will pay back this money or the states in the South-east. “If the states in the South-east will pay this loan, I am afraid to say that these two issues are very worrisome. If our people will pay the cost of these services, it means we have not got anything from the Federal Government. One would have expected to get a clear commitment from the Federal Government to undertake this second Niger Bridge and finance it by itself.
“We don’t have money in the South-east because of the paltry money we get from the federal allocation. Who will be saddled with the responsibility of paying for these services? It means that our people will continue to suffer. Just this year alone, the Federal Government has released N50 billion for construction of bridges in Benue State and that is the type of thing I want to hear the Federal Government is doing in the South-east.