Monday, February 8, 2016 5:38 pm
The resolve of Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation that all projects embarked upon under his ministry will be completed may be hampered by the situation concerning uncompleted rail projects in the country. Contractors and firms have abandoned the projects midstream and many of them appear to have disappeared, leaving no trail.
Although the House of Representatives summoned the railway contractors to appear before it and give reasons progress has been stalled on the projects, while it has also threatened to declare the contractors wanted for failing to honour its invitations, most of the handlers of the rehabilitation and modernization projects of the Nigerian Railway Corporation have failed to show up.
An ad-hoc committee of the House, chaired by Johnson Agbonayinma from Edo State has been investigating the contracts covering the period between 2010 and 2014, on which the Federal Government has expended as much as N1 trillion. The contract sum was bloated with additional funding from the rested Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme.
After it became glaring that the level at which the rail projects stood was not commensurate with the huge public funds spent thus far by the NRC, the Managing Director of the corporation, Seyi Sijuwade had to face the House Committee last week. Agbonayinma disclosed that only China Civil Engineering Construction Company responded to the committee’s invitation. ‘’ All the letters we sent out to their addresses were returned, we have not heard anything from them, we cannot reach the phone numbers attached to the addresses. Are they faceless? Agbonayinma asked. He declared that since the contractors cannot be found, Sijuwade would be held responsible.
One of the firms which won the contract for the Port Harcourt-Makurdi line worth N19 billion and had received N9 billion out of the contract sum has not done much on site. The House of Representatives members were also not pleased that for Costain West Africa which won a N12.2 billion contract for the Jebba-Kano line, which had a duration of 10 months, years passed before it was delivered.
On his part, Sijuwade claimed that due process was followed in the award of the contracts, when the lawmakers harped on the sidelining of the Board of the NRC in the award and execution of all the contracts.
Former Board Chairmen of the Railway Corporation, including Bello Haliru-Mohammed, Bamangar Tukur, Abubakar Baraje and Ambassador Ladan Shuni had earlier appeared before the House committee to testify that they were not directly involved in the award of the contracts.