N’Assembly Cttees on Transportation Express Displeasure over Non-disclosure of Budget Performance

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  • Amaechi says MoU with Chinese company for Port Harcourt-Calabar rail will attract $3bn FDI

Dele Ogbodo in Abuja

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transportation, Senator Olugbenga Ashafa and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Sanni, monday expressed displeasure with the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, for not furnishing the joint committee with information on the ministry’s 2016 budget performance.

Expressing the joint committees’ displeasure during its oversight visit at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, Ashafa said despite the letter written to the ministry on the October 20 requesting for advance information on its budget performance, the ministry as at yesterday, was yet to provide details of the budget performance.

While faulting the ministry for its non response, he said: “This is not good enough. Our disposition to your proposals in the 2017 budget would be largely guided by our assessment of your performance over this period.”

He said it was imperative that the joint committee conducted on-the-spot assessment of the ministry’s performance within the life span of the Appropriation Act of both the past and current year.

According to him, the legislative arm is keen on scrutinising the capital expenditure and the budgetary performances of the ministry, adding that the exercise will guide it in the 2017 appropriation.

“I would like urge you all not to regard this exercise as a witch-hunt,” he said.
However, Ashafa promised that the lawmakers would work relentlessly to provide the legislative support to the executive in its drive to bring the desired change in the transport sector.

He said: “We believe that the Senate’s passage of the 2016 Railway Bill, more avenues have been opened up in the rail transport sector for foreign direct investment into the country through the opening of the operations to both the public and private sector.”

Earlier in his remarks, the minister informed the committees that government had signed a contract for the construction of Calabar-Port Harcourt rail line with extension to Onne deep sea port which is part of the coastal rail projects which terminates at the Onitsha rail station.

He said: “In the same vein, Warri-Ajaokuta- Baro-Abuja central railways has been properly placed on the path of public private partnership (PPP) and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with China Railway Construction Company (CRCC).

“When this arrangement comes through after being subjected to the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), evaluation and due process, it will draw a minimum of $3 billion foreign direct investment for the country.”

To free the existing narrow gauge tracks from its sub-optimal condition occasioned by the underutilisation of its installed capacity, to becoming an enabler for growth in allied and mining, he said the 3,0505km Lagos-Kano, Port Harcourt- Maiduguri and Zaria-Kaura Namoda narrow gauge rail system have been slated for concession to reputable operators to be financed by General Electric of US.

On completion, Amaechi said the rail would provide affordable transport for 5.1 million passengers annually and will account for 20 million tonnes amounting to 35 per cent of freight movement per year.

The minister said the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) has completed the rehabilitation of Western line, Lagos to Kano and the eastern railway lines to Gombe, adding that train services have started running from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt-Gombe and Kano through Kafachan-Kaduna twice a week and Port Harcourt-Aba rail service also running.

He appealed to the lawmakers to expedite action on the passage of the national transport commission bill expected to replace the 1955 NRC Act.