Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, Tuesday debunked insinuations in some quarters that the federal government has jettisoned its earlier plans to include the South East geopolitical zone in the Eastern rail lines captured in foreign loan acquired by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The Senate had last week mandated its joint committee on Land Transport, and Local and Foreign Debts to summon the Minister on the alleged exclusion of Eastern rail line in the ongoing nationwide construction of railways, captured in the foreign loan rail project.
But appearing before the joint senate committee chaired by Senator Gbenga Ashafa on Tuesday, Amaechi refuted the claims of exclusion of the South East geopolitical zone from the Port Harcourt- Maiduguri Eastern rail line project noting that the delay in the execution of project was caused by bureaucratic bottle neck caused by public procurement Act.
He said: “The president insists on rule of law and the law passed by the National Assembly in terms of public procurement is very tedious and not easy to conclude, it takes a very long time. Similarly, the law passed by the National Assembly on the Bureau for Public procurement is very tedious. We have met with both GE and the consortium handling the project for nearly two years.
“Secondly, in that meeting we had in 2017, I reassured our people that they are not more Igbo than I.
Let me make it clear, the country does not have the resources to do railway in every village. It is not possible, $2.7 billion is one trillion Naira.
“So, for the railway you want to do from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri is about $12billion and that is one year budget of Nigeria.
Therefore every thing is done systematically; we can’t do all the projects at the same time. What we are doing is as we get the loan approved, we execute the project currently we are following due process for the one of South East.”
Continuing, Amaechi further explained, “Currently, we have placed an advertisement on the Eastern Rail lines. Sometime in 2017 we placed an advertisement for e rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and that is what the law expects us to do. We can’t skip the law on construction of standard gauge.
“Again even the narrow gauge construction does not only concern the South East. The same narrow gauge transversed Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, I don’t know what other thing the Senate expects from me on this project except to say that it is work in progress. We are not magician and the current law we have insist on the number of times we shall advertise a project, we completed the project we pass it to Bureau for public procurement which in turn will refer to us before we go to the cabinet for presentation and I think we are set to go to the cabinet for approval.”
On the insinuation that GE has pulled out of the project, he explained that the company handed over the contract to another sister company because it is no longer in the transport business.
“It handed over the job to another sister company in the consortium which is Trans-net. We are at the verge of signing the contract agreement and it is when we finished signing the consortium agreement that we will begin to look for money to execute the project. The total cost of the project is $2.7billion and it is a Private Partnership agreement.”