The Senate has begun the process of re-enacting the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, to remove the bottlenecks that hindered the development of an efficient rail transport system in the country.
The Senate Committee on Land Transport held a public hearing in Abuja aimed at developing a practical and well-crafted legal framework for the Nigerian Railway Corporation to enable it meet with international best practices.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, at the public hearing said that the exercise when completed would set the Nigerian railway sector on the path of positive development.
At the hearing, Senate President Bukola Saraki said that the Senate has no choice but to speedily and comprehensively review and pass the bill which would aid the development of the railway sector.
The Minister of Transport says that the main focus of the Federal Government is to revamp the Rail System to make transportation easy and accessible to all Nigerians.
Mr Rotimi Amaechi made the disclosure to reporters on Thursday at the Government House in Oshogbo, the Osun State capital in southwest Nigeria.
He said that he was in the state for an assessment tour of some Federal Government road projects embarked upon by the Osun State government in line with the directive of the Federal Executive Council.
The Minister also hinted that other sectors in the Ministry of Transport such as maritime, road and aviation would also be given due attention.
He said that the Federal Government, having successfully reached an agreement with the Chinese government, would soon embark on the construction of Lagos-Kano rail line.
Mr Amaechi also disclosed that the construction of four terminal buildings was already underway in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt as part of the ongoing reform in the aviation sector.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Thursday warned that those found culpable in the N1.69 trillion rail tracks rehabilitation contracts fraud would face full wrath of the law.
The Speaker made this known while declaring open the investigative hearing by the ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the award of contracts by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), for rehabilitation of rail tracks, maintenance of bridges, procurement and rehabilitation of coaches and locomotives.
During the investigation, past Chairmen of the Board of the NRC, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Alhaji Kawu Baraje, who were present, denied involvement in the award of the contracts.
Hon. Dogara and the Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee, Johnson Agbonayinma, maintained that the House is determined to carry out its mandate.
The committee is expected to continue with its investigation at a later date when the Minister of Transportation is expected to appear.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for an explanation from the Ministry of Finance on the foreign loans obtained for rail projects but diverted to other purposes.
Speaking at the end of a presentation on the Ministry of Transport by the Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Bashar at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari said that it was disappointing to find that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved from one project to another.
“I hope that due process was followed before such diversions were carried out. Taking money from one project to another has to be done properly,” the President warned.
According to Presidential Spokesperson, Garba Shehu, President Buhari was reacting to the specific instance of the diversion of a substantial part of the loan of USD1.005 billion from the Chinese Exim Bank, obtained for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos to Kano but which was moved elsewhere.
The Permanent Secretary had informed the President that only USD 400 million of that loan remained with the Ministry of Finance.
The President regretted that government had, over the years, failed to meet its counterpart funding obligation on some projects, leading to such projects being left uncompleted or abandoned.
He added that there was a clear need to streamline, harmonize, and prioritize on-going projects in the transportation sector.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry also briefed the President on other challenges facing the transport and maritime sectors such as encroachment on railway land, lack of security on inland waterways and the confused nature of agreements between the Nigeria Ports Authority and ports concessionaires.
The Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, has called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the Erunmu Inland Container Depot in the state and make it operational.
Represented by his Deputy, Mr Moses Alake Adeyemo, the Governor made this call at his office when a FG delegation, led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Engineer Nebolisa Emodi, paid him a visit.
Mr. Adeyemo lamented the extremely slow pace of the FG on the project which started 10 years ago, but never saw the light of day despite the state government making necessary provisions on the site many years back.
The leader of the delegation and Director of the Shippers’ Council, Mr Patrick Odeh, disclosed that the team which included Nigeria Customs, Shippers’ Council, Ministry of Transport, The Concessionaire, and the host community were in the state to inspect the facility so work can commence on the project.
The Executive Secretary, Bureau of Public Private Partnership in Oyo State, Mr Yinka Fatoki, explained that a lot of bottlenecks from the Customs to the various stakeholders have been major impediments to the laudable initiative.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Honourable Seriake Dickson, has announced a slight cabinet reshuffle, which he said was aimed at improving service delivery.
With the new arrangement, the former Commissioner for Water Resources, Honourable Dein Binadoumene, will take charge of the Ministry of Education.
Also, Mr Akpoebide Alamieyeseigha, who was before now the Commissioner for Youth Development takes over the Ministry of Transport.
Governor Dickson told reporters about the reshuffle on Tuesday during the swearing-in of Mr Collins Cocodia as Commissioner for Youth Development, at the Executive Council Chambers of Government House, Yenagoa.
Mr Cocodia was formerly the Governor’s Representative in Sagbama Local Government Area.
“As a new member of the Restoration Team, you should strive hard to bring your wealth of experience garnered in your previous portfolio to bear in this new assignment,” Governor Dickson told Mr Cocodia.