The Nigerian Senate has resolved to investigate the concession agreement between the Transportation Ministry and a US company, General Electric, which was intended to revive the country’s railways.
The lawmakers are worried that the agreement may have been unilaterally entered into between the Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and GE.
At plenary on Tuesday, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Akpan Bassey, raised a motion claiming that the Transport Minister violated the Public Enterprises (Privatization and Commercialization) Act, 1999 by “unilaterally engaging General Electric for the concessioning of the Western and Eastern Rail Lines.”
Bassey said that the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, and the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility had developed a roadmap for the project, when it was first introduced by the National Privatization Council in April 2015, during the last days of Goodluck Jonathan as President.
He maintained that the BPE had engaged the Global Infrastructure Facility and the World Bank in discussions on how to access funds to manage the project before Amaechi’s “unilateral” deal with GE.
Following the motion, the Senate resolved to refer the matter to its committees on privatization, finance, land transport, anti-corruption and financial crimes, trade and investment for further actions.
Amaechi, in an interview with an international media organisation in June this year, had announced that Nigeria was engaging GE with regards to the concession of Western and Eastern rail lines – Lagos to Kano and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri respectively – worth around $2 billion.
“GE is already in; we are trying to get the government agencies to allow us negotiate with GE,” Amaechi was quoted as saying in the interview.
“The company is going to bring in over $2 billion in the Nigerian railway sector in which they are going to revive the Lagos-Kano narrow gauge and revive the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge by private investment,” he added.
The concession agreement has however been supported by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In his Independence Day speech, Buhari said: “General Electric is investing $2.2 billion in a concession to revamp, provide rolling stock, and manage the existing lines, including the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Line. The Lagos-Calabar railway will also be on stream soon.”
It would be recalled that members of the National Assembly clashed with the Transport Minister during the 2016 budget process, over the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail project which was not in the original appropriation bill presented to the lawmakers by President Buhari, but was forwarded through the committee on land transport as a supplementary proposal of the transport ministry.