The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, appeared before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and said he had no information on the contracts for the rehabilitation and modernisation of railway in the country.
The railway contracts reportedly gulped over N1tn between 2010 and 2015, with additional funding from the rested Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme.
But Amaechi told the committee, which is chaired by a lawmaker from Edo State, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinma, that he would not be useful to the investigation because he was not in the office when the contracts were awarded and could not speak authoritatively about them.
“I don’t know about the past contracts but I can talk more on our progress and what we are doing now,”
the minister said.
He said on resumption of office as minister, he ordered an audit of projects being carried out in the ministry to establish their status.
Amaechi added that a full report of the audit was still being awaited, but he confirmed that in the next two years, some major railway projects in the country would be completed and put to full use.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Bello Haliru-Mohammed, also appeared before the committee and denied that he awarded any rail contracts.
Haliru-Mohammed, a former Minister of Defence, chaired the Board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation between 2009 and 2011.
Many of the railway contracts were awarded during Haliru-Mohammed’s tenure, it was leant.
However, the former National Chairman of the PDP claimed that the board did not participate in the contract awards because the Public Procurement Act barred it from getting involved.
He explained that the role of the board was limited to policy direction, while the responsibility of awarding contracts fell on the management of the NRC, the ministry and the Federal Executive Council.
“Please, note that the PPA was in force throughout my tenure as chairman of the board of the corporation,”
But, the Managing Director of the NRC, Mr. Seyi Sijuwade, did not have a smooth ride at the committee session.
Members drilled him for over two hours on his role in the contracts.
They queried how some firms that participated in the contracts won the deals. A particular firm, Eser Nigeria Limited, was said to belong to his family and members asked repeatedly whether any of his family members was a director on the board of the firm.
He replied, “I am unaware that my relation is a director of the company you mentioned”, Sijuwade maintained.
Three former board chairmen of the NRC had earlier appeared before the committee, saying that only Sijuwade could speak on how the rail contracts were awarded.
They were Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje and Amb. Ladan Shuni.
Sjuwade told the committee that all contracts above N1billion got the approval of FEC.