BY David O. Kuranga, Ph.D.
There has been considerable discussion about Nigeria’s rail sector over the previous four years. Most of the discussion has focused on the size of the contract for a railway with the same contractor that is more than what the same contractor charged Ghana for a much longer system. While indeed this irregularity is glaring and warrants serious investigation and answers, what appears to have gone unnoticed is the outright fraud that has occurred in the procurement of rail coaches for Nigeria’s national railways.
The first glaring irregularity, is that the ministry of transportation has never released the exact figure that was paid to contractors for the procurement of rail coaches. This defies even the most undemocratic governments in the world. You can search and get exact figures for what governments in Algeria, and Senegal, or even Myanmar paid for their rail coaches because the officials in those countries announced the exact figures and the amount of the contract. However, under Rotimi Amaechi, the ministry of transportation has never provided any documentation or press release for how much they are truly spending on rail coaches. Even the minister of the federal capital territory announced the exact figure they were paying for the light rail coaches they were procuring rolling stock from the same contractor. Yet the much larger contracts from the transportation ministry under Amaechi have never announced or released any records of figures. The question is why?
The budget for rail coaches announced and approved by the Federal Executive Council under current Vice President Osinbajo, in December 2017 for rail coaches was 500 million United States Dollars just for Lagos and Warri rail lines. This development was reported in the media at the time: https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2017/12/13/purchase-of-coaches-locomotives-for-railway- projects-approved/ With his budget approval in hand, Rotimi Amaechi set forth procuring coaches from the Chinese contractor (CRRC). Some of them have been delivered out of the 64 that are under construction. It is pretty vague how many were ordered for Lagos and Warri, but one this is unmistakable. Nobody has announced how much the order from CRRC was for. How much do one of these coaches cost? If you wait on Amaechi to tell you, you will never know. However, the government of Cuba, also made a huge order for their tiny Island. The Cuban order of 240 coaches, dwarfs what Amaechi has been ordering for Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in the world. Further the reported price tag for the massive Cuban order is just 150 million United States Dollars, less than 1/3 of what the transportation ministry was approved for in 2017 (http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2478872&CategoryId=14510).
MISSING 450 MILLLION DOLLARS
It is not clear how much the Ministry of Transportation has spent on
the order of coaches, but if we are to assume that they have paid in advance
for everything, and even snuck in an order of a few extra units, no more than
50 million dollars out of the 500 million budgeted has been spent. If the
entire 500 million dollars was truly spent on coaches, no fewer than 1000
coaches should be delivered to Nigeria. Instead Nigeria is being delivered 10
coaches at a time, a number that pales in comparison to what the
tiny Island of Cuba has been getting for their system. What has happened to the remaining 450 million dollars allocated by the FEC to the ministry of transportation? Nobody really knows, and unfortunately, nobody is asking, and nobody seems to care. These speaks volumes for the failure of leadership, both in governance, and in media throughout the country. The opposition, is also grossly incompetent, for their failure to investigate and/or point out these glaring irregularities.
It has been reported that the president is considering reappointing Rotimi Amaechi to a ministerial position. Given his conduct as governor, 1) where he spent hundreds of millions yet failed to build a monorail that was constructed for a fraction of the cost in Moscow, and neighboring Cross River state by the same manufacturer, and 2) now is unable to explain gross irregularities in rail contracts for Nigeria and Ghana by the same contractor, and 30 also has never explained or provided the simple figures for the 500 million dollars that he was assigned to use to procure coaches that would not cost 1/10 of that amount; it is not clear why anyone would deem Rotimi Amaechi qualified to occupy a ministerial position in LGA yet alone the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Of the former cabinet he was the most unfit and his conduct in office demonstrated the lack of confidence shown from the onset of his initial appointment. Unless the president, vice president, and the ruling APC want to find themselves a laughing stock in their fight against corruption, reappointing Rotimi Amaechi would be the worst idea imaginable.