Senate to probe concession of Lagos-Kano, P/Harcourt-Maiduguri rail lines

THE Senate, on Tuesday, mandated its committees to immediately investigate the procedure adopted in the engagement of a United State-based General Electric for the concession of Lagos-Kano (Western) and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri (Eastern) rail lines.

The committees involved are privatisation, land transport, finance, anti-corruption and financial crimes, special duties, trade and investment, and judiciary.

This followed the adoption of a resolution of a motion sponsored by Senator  Bassey Albert Akpan, entitled: “Urgent need to investigate the granting of concession of the Western (Lagos-Kano) and Eastern (Port Harcourt-Maiduguri) rail lines to General Electric.”

Akpan, in the motion, stated that the Senate noted that the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999 established the National Council on Privatisation (NPC) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) for the purpose of privatisation of public enterprises.

He added that the Senate further noted that the BPE and the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF) developed a roadmap for the concessioning of the two rail lines, upon the approval of the NCP, despite the fact that the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act did not envisage a concessioning of the corporation until when it was recently amended.

He added that the Senate was aware that in August, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated the steering and technical committees, in line with the provision of Section 11(k) of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999 to fast-track the process of concession of the rail lines.

According to him the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, was quoted in a news report on June 30, as saying that General Electric was already engaged for the project with a potential investment of over $2 billion by the United States company in the Nigerian railway sector, particularly to revive the Lagos-Kano and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauges.

The Senate, therefore, expressed worry over the engagement of the company by the minister, instead of the steering and technical committees of the NPC, which are responsible for negotiation with potential bidders for the concession.

It expressed worry that contrary to the provisions of the BPE Act, the Federal Government had already constituted a taskforce headed by the Minister of Finance to drive the transaction process in line with the approval of NCP in April, 2015, even as it added that the Ministry of Transport had violated the provisions of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999 by unilaterally engaging General Electric.