The Federal Executive Council has approved contracts worth 1.3 billion Naira for consultancy services for the designs of six standard gauge rail lines across Nigeria.
The meeting, held on Wednesday, was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.
At a press briefing after the meeting the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, said that the six lots, totalling 4,430 kilometre, were in addition to seven earlier lots approved by the council last year.
The railway lines covered by the new contracts include Kano-Dayi-Katsina-Jibiya rail line; Ilela-Sokoto-Jega-Yauti-Makera rail line; aba-Ikot Ekpene-Ibiono-Itu(spur line to Uyo)-Odupkani-Calabar rail line; Kano-Nguru-Gashua-Damaturu/Gamborun-Ngala rail line; calabar-Ikom-Obudu-Ogoja-Katsina Ala-Wukari-Jalingo-Yola-Maiduguri rail line and the Port Harcourt-Aba-Umuahia-Enugu-Makurdi-Lafia-jos-Bauchi-Gombe-Biu-maiduguri rail line.
The projects are expected to be completed within six months.
The Minister said the contracts were part of the 35 years strategic vision of the Federal Government for the rail sector.
Earlier at the council meeting, the Minister of Trade and Investments, Olusegun Aganga, told the council that the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) had recognised the development efforts of Nigeria and Ethiopia, quoting UNIDO as saying that the two countries showed the strongest and highest potential for industrial development in Africa.
The organisation intends to set up its office in Nigeria and Mr Aganga said the organisation had only eight of such offices in the world while Nigeria would be hosting the first and the only one in Africa.
In a bid to fulfill his pledge that recommendations made by the controversial Ribadu Report would be looked into, President Goodluck Jonathan has set up white paper committees to prepare Draft White Papers on the reports of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force and two other reports on the nation’s oil sector.
The others are reports presented by the National Refineries Special Task Force and the Governance and Controls Special Task Force.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr Reuben Abati on Thursday announced the appointment of the latest committee to probe the nation’s oil sector.
According to Dr Abati, “the committees are to study the reports, review the issues raised and prepare Draft White Papers for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council within two weeks.”
The white paper committee on the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report-now known as Ribadu report-will be chaired by the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, with the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, Minister of State for FCT, Chief Jumoke Akinjide, and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed as members.
It will be recalled that President Jonathan, after the rancour between members of the committee during their submission of the report, gave the assurance that despite the rancour , his administration will look into the report and prosecute any one alleged of misappropriation in the nation’s oil sector.
The Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and a member of his team, Steve Oronsaye traded words at the presentation of the committee’s report to the President with the latter alleging that the report was flawed with unconfirmed figures.
The white paper committee on the report of the Governance and Controls Special Task Force will be chaired by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Ama Pepple.
Other members of the committee are Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, and Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mallam Bukar Tijani.
The white paper committee on the report of the National Refineries Special Task Force has Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Mohammed Sada as chairman, and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Pate and Minister of State for Education, Mr. Ezenwo Nyeson Wike as members.
According to the statement, the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will provide a secretariat for the committees.
The statement further adds that the President has made the move “in furtherance of his declared commitment to doing all within his powers to ensure greater accountability, probity and transparency in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.”
The federal government has announced plans to commence a new railway system which will entail an overwhelming participation of the private sector and state governments, as the government is set to repeal the Nigerian Railway Act of 1955.
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar made this known at the 19th session of the leadership forum organised by the Nigerian Newsworld magazine in Abuja on Monday, where he said efforts of the current administration will lead to a total resuscitation of the nation’s rail transport system by allowing private companies and state governor participate in the inustry.
The Act gives exclusive rights of ownership of the nation’s railway to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), thereby making it impossible for the private sector and the state governments to play any role in the locomotive industry.
Umar explained that the federal government is working on presenting a new bill to amend the Nigerian Railway Act of 1955 in collaboration with the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).
“Mr. President will soon present that bill to the National Assembly as an Executive bill seeking to repeal and re-enact the Nigerian Railway Act of 1955 so that the private sector and the state governments can play a role in the establishment and ownership of the rail lines and the railways. “
He further revealed that the envisaged bill is presently with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and it will be forwarded to Mr. President who will bring it to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the usual approval before it is sent to the National Assembly. “I am sure that in the next couple of weeks, that will be done” he affirmed.
The minister emphasized that it is very difficult for government to totally finance the much needed railways in the country 100 per cent due to lack of funds.
Noting that the Lagos to Ibadan new standard gauge will cost about $1.5 billion stated that “you can imagine how much money government would need to finance the new rail lines all over the country.”
“From Lagos to Abuja, Abuja to Maiduguri, or from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and from Lagos to Enugu, you can imagine the amount of money involved and the competing needs on the lean resources of government” he told his audience.
Mr. Umar argued for the need for the private sector to come to the rescue of the crippling infrastructure stating that “it is of necessity that the private sector partners with government. And that is why we have been going round the world looking for investors, discussing with them and trying to woo them to come and invest in the various transport infrastructure projects, particularly the railways.”
The Minister also noted that some people will argue that “most countries in the world where the railways have been successful, the government has to bear the cost” but he replied such arguments, stating that “when you have this very serious challenge of funds, then you have to look inwards and invite the private sector and see if you can get those who will be prepared to put in their money.”
“What is important for us is to ensure that this infrastructure is re-introduced and developed” he quipped.
The Minister also defended the partnership between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and a private company (Global West Vessels Specialist Nigeria Limited; owned by former militant leader, Tompolo) over the maintenance of security in the nation’s territorial waters, saying government has not concessioned the security of the waters to a private firm.
The company, he noted, is to provide platforms, equipment, boats and expertise to maintain the safety and to carry out surveillance of the entire nation’s territorial waters.
He described the alleged concessioning of the nation’s territorial waters and maritime security as “irritating and wrong”, adding that “the personnel of this company (Global West Vessels Specialist Nigeria Ltd) are not going to bear arms. That is the responsibility of the Nigerian Navy.”
He thereby enjoined people not to believe that government has concessioned the security of our waters to a private firm, adding that the partnership is on a “no-cue, no-pay basis”, which means that “the company will only be entitled to their fees when they are able to reach an agreed target with NIMASA” he explained.
The years 2010 and 2011 are taken as the benchmark in computing whatever fees that will accrue to them. And they will be only entitled to payment on fees on surpassing the benchmark set on collection of dues.
“Whatever it gets over the benchmark set is what it will be entitled to charge fees from. If it is able to get additional funds over the benchmark, then it is entitled to 50 per cent of the additional funds. If the company is unable to get up to the benchmark, it is not entitled to any payment. The essence of that is to allow them to recoup their investment as they are going to invest about $103 million for this project.”
He however noted that government is not going to give them the money and that benchmark will be reviewed every three years. “That is to put them on their toes” he added.
The Minister also stated that NIMASA with the Nigerian Navy will monitor the company due to the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Navy and NIMASA “which is in fulfillment of the security aspect of the NIMASA mandate whereby the Navy provides the required security in terms of handling of arms” he said.