Past National Chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Alhaji Kawu Baraje yesterday exonerated themselves from the award of railway contracts as the Board Chairmen of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
Tukur told an adhoc committee of the House of Representatives that the Procurement Act excluded the NRC Board from participating in the award of railway contracts. “The board which I chaired was never involved in any contract award and was never told or invited to participate in issues of contract award or financial disbursement”, he said. He said that throughout his tenure of office as the Board Chairman of NRC, no issue of contract award, of any amount, was discussed or awarded by the board.
Also, another former chairman of the NRC board, Alhaji Kawu Baraje said he was not privileged to appoint any consultant or award contracts for railway projects. According to Baraje, all the paraphernalia and indices that would assist him carry out his work were not available. “We only played the role of inspection because the Procurement Act excluded the Board from participating in any contract awards”, he said.
He expressed worry that the country’s railway transportation system has suffered neglect in spite of playing critical role in the development of the economy. Baraje said more attention should be given to the 25 year railway modernization plan to boost transportation in the country.
Also Sen. Ladan Shuni, another former Board Chairman of the NRC wondered the essence of inaugurating a board that lacked the capacity to oversight the award of contracts. Earlier, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara urged the adhoc committee to ascertain the quality of contractors who were awarded the contracts. “In view of the billions on naira sunk into the railway project, the committee must ascertain the quality of contractors awarded these contracts. “The contracts must have value for the money”, Dogara said.
He pointed out that the railway transportation was three times more efficient and environmentally friendly than other means of transportation. Chairman of the ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Johnson Agbonayinma, said Nigeria loses N450 billion annually due to the poor state of railway infrastructure. “The contributions of transport to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been on the downward trend due to the poor state of our rails thereby resulting in economic loss to the tune of N450 billion annually”, he said.
Recall that the House of Representatives had on October 14 mandated the committee on transport to probe contracts awarded for the rehabilitation of rail tracks, standard gauge, bridges, coaches, wagons and locomotives between 2010 and 2014. The contracts, according to the House of Representatives, amount to N1 trillion.
– Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja