The Senate yesterday resolved to probe the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi over the process of the concession of Port Harcourt-Maiduguri and Lagos-Kano rail lines to a U.S. conglomerate, General Electric (GE).
The Senate adopted a motion sponsored by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North East) titled “Urgent need to investigate the granting of concession of the western (Lagos-Kano) and eastern (Port Harcourt-Maiduguri) rail lines to General Electric, a U.S. company.”
The lawmakers asked the committees on Privatisation, Land Transport, Finance, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Special Duties, Trade and Investment and Judiciary to investigate the procedure adopted in the engagement of General Electric for the concession of the rail lines.
Akpan quoted Amaechi in an interview in June this year where he allegedly announced Nigeria’s $2 billion engagement with GE on the concession of western and eastern rail lines – Lagos to Kano and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
He explained that the minister violated the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999 establishing the National Council on Privatisation and the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).
In a related development, the Nigeria Union of Railways Workers (NUR) yesterday protested against the plan by the Federal Government to concession the nation’s 3,505 km narrow-garage track railways system to GE without paying the workers their entitlement.
During the protest in Lagos, the Secretary General of the union, Segun Esan said: “We are not against the privatisation of railways if the citizens are assured that it is the best thing for them at this time to boost the nation’s economy. But all we are asking for is to pay the workers off before handing over to GE.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, yesterday, queried the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) MasterCard policy, which restrains Nigerian students abroad from withdrawing over $100 in a month.
Chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora, Rita Orji, who had an interactive session with CBN’s Director of Trade and Exchange, Gotring Dauda, said the students could no longer purchase basic needs as a result of the policy.
Also, he apex bank, yesterday, warned Nigerians in the Diaspora not to patronise unlicensed international Money Transfer Operators, saying they risk losing their cash.
The bank also directed Deposit Money Banks to ensure painstaking conduct of the ‘Know Your Customer’s Business’, to prevent use of accounts for illegal transactions, and avoid sanctions.
Dauda explained: “The situation is because of the realities on ground. All sectors of the economy are complaining; manufacturing, aviation, everybody is facing this problem. The CBN would not take deliberate decisions that would bring hardship to our students. The foreign exchange is simply not there.”
Orji recalled how she was almost lynched by protesting Nigerian students in Montreal, Canada, recently. She called for a reversal of the policy, warning that desperate students may resort to crime to meet their needs and consequently smear Nigeria’s image.