Top on the committee’s mandate is the procedure the minister adopted in the concessioning of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri and Lagos-Kano Rail Lines to a United States (US) firm, General Electric (GE).
Some official conducts of the Transport Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, came under the scrutiny of the Senate on Tuesday.
The Upper House, which declared them untidy, directed its Joint Committee to investigate them.
The Senate action was prompted by a motion sponsored by Senator Akpan Bassey (PDP-Akwa Ibom) which he titled “Urgent Need to Investigate the Granting of Concession of Western Lagos-Kano) and Eastern (Port Harcourt-Maiduguri) Rail Lines to General Electric.”
Senator Bassey, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, said that upon approval of the project by the National Privatisation Council in April 2015, during the last days of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the Nigerian Infrastructure Advisory Facility developed a roadmap for the concessioning of the rail lines.
He said 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 came into office and unilaterally awarded it to GE.
The lawmaker asserted that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Act did not envisage the concessioning of corporation’s facilities and services until the recent amendment.
Bassey also accused Amaechi of violating the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999 by the singular action.
He told the Upper Chamber that the minister had in an interview with CNBC in June announced Nigeria’s engagement with GE regarding the concession of Western and Eastern rail lines – Lagos to Kano and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, respectively – worth about $2 billion.
Amaechi had said in the interview: “GE is already in; we are trying to get the government agencies to allow us negotiate with GE. The company is going to bring in over $2 billion into 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.”
But Bassey expressed concern that it was the responsibility of the Steering Committee and Technical Committee of the Nigerian Railway Corporation inaugurated by the Vice President in August this year to negotiate with potential bidders for the concessioning of the rail lines. He queried why the Ministry of Transport should singlehandedly engage GE in June this year.
Having enjoyed robust contributions from senators, the Senate mandated its Committees on Privatisation, Finance, Land Transport, Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Trade and Investment to investigate the transaction and report their findings to the Upper House.