Railway Probe: I Didn’t Award Contracts For Locomotive – Ibrahim Biu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Railway Probe: I Didn’t Award Contracts For Locomotive – Ibrahim Biu

Posted: Mar 4, 2016 at 5:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ahmed Musa, Abuja

Hearing on the alleged N1 trillion rail contract scam continued yesterday (Thursday) with the former Minister of Transport, Hon. Isah Ibrahim Biu, who said he never awarded the contract for the supply of 5 locomotive engines by General Electric (GE) in 2010 but was only a party to its commissioning.

The former minister also denied having any affinity with any of the companies given the contract throughout his tenure, insisting that whoever has evidence linking him to any of the companies should come forward and make it public.

When asked the question by a lawmaker on his alleged interest in some of the companies, Biu said: “Before I answer this question, I want to be given the Holy Qur’an to swear by it so that I will be on oath again”.

“I’m saying without any equivocation that I have no affiliation whatsoever with any of the companies given the contracts, and if anybody has any proof to the contrary, let that person come forward and prove me wrong”, Biu said.

He told the commitee that his tenure as minister of transport was short-lived following the death of late President Yar’adua who appointed him in 2010, adding that he was appointed on 18th of December, 2009 and was removed by Goodluck Jonathan on the 10th of March, 2010.

He said transportation, which is the next requirement of mankind after food and shelter, needed to have been made efficient if the system was to work well and move the society forward, adding that he didn’t have much to do with the award of contracts.

“The letter of invitation sent to me states that the investigation covers 2010 to 2014 and my tenure lasted between December 18th, 2009 and March 10th, 2010”, he said.

Hon. Biu added that during the period he was minister, the country was in a political turmoil with the late president critically ill and there was more of politicking than governance, as a result of which transportation suffered.

He said the then acting president, Goodluck Jonathan during that period refused to accept any briefing from him neither was he given the opportunity to make any major official decision until he was removed in March.

The committee asked him the name of the company he allegedly awarded contract for the supply of 5 locomotive engines and if they were fully paid and how much.

He said he was invited to commission the locomotive engines supplied by General Electric in Lagos during which he entered one of the engines and commissioned it, adding that according to the agreement signed, only 15 percent of the contract sum was paid to GE which he oversaw, but couldn’t tell what happened next after he was removed thereby bringing to an end his official engagement as minister.

Also asked as to why he signed a contract for routing of the locomotive to a company without due process, he said the company in question was only hired as a consultant engaged by the then Managing Director, one Mr. JC Nwankwo who went to advertise for tender without following due process by dividing the project into 23 sub-heads.

He said, later, the President saw the advert in Vanguard newspaper and called his attention, directing that the MD be sacked which led to the appointment of Seyi Sijuade as his successor.

Hon. Biu further explained that the ministry lacked the capacity to announce tender and award contract since it doesn’t have the professionals with the technical knowledge of the sector who could only be found at the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), adding that the NRC Board is the only body statutorily empowered to award contracts subject to the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

However, the committee recalled that the NRC officials had informed them in the course of the hearing that they were never allowed to award contract above N250million as anything above that was solely handled by FEC through the Ministry and BPP.

He responded saying that the burden of writing certificate of no objection for payment to contractors was squarely on the NRC which in turn sent to him for signing and which he undertook for them for onward passage to the BPP.

Asked about the standard guage modernisation contract and the role he played, he told the lawmakers that the modernisation contract for the Lagos to Kano standard gauge was awarded by the Obasanjo regime to the tune of over $8billion.

He said late President Yar’adua demanded for redesigning of the project and cut it into seven different segments with a fresh mandate to the consultants to come up with new designs and cost implication.

“The idea was that, Lagos and Abuja with their accommodation problem must be linked to neighbouring states of not less than 1hr rail time for workers to commute to and fro. When the cost for the Kaduna-Abuja segment was put at $1bilion, he (Yar’adua) said it was too much and demanded for reduction”, he said.

Of the 27 contractors and government agencies invited to face the panel either as witnesses or as accused, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as 13 contractors failed to turn up and didn’t send any correspondent explaining their inability to attend the hearing.

Committee chairman, Hon. Johnson Agbonayinma expressed disappointment, especially in the attitude of the SGF whom he said showed contempt towards the committee with a letter which content wasn’t palatable to the ear.

“We are not here to witch hunt anybody. We are the reps of the people and Nigerian people deserve to know how their hard-earned money was put to use. We can only succeed in moving this country forward if we work together as one people.

“The SGF sent a letter this morning with some un-appreciable comment without even sending any representative. He is the Secretary to the Government and we are also part of the Government”, the lawmaker said.

Asked why some of the contractors didn’t turn up, the acting Managing Director of NRC, Engineer Okhiria Fidet pleaded for additional time to enable him prevail on the erring contractors to attend the hearing.

He said he tried his best to contact the companies whose numbers he could get, adding that while some responded and came for the hearing, others could not be reached either due to unavailability of their contacts or in-accessibility of same.

However, members told the MD to desist from making excuses for the contractors that have obtained contracts and received full payment without delivering on the jobs they undertook.

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was represented by an official Mr. Ike Okonjo, while the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS) was also represented by a Director, Mr. Godwin Bassey Etteh.