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Ameachi And The Railway Modernisation Programme:huriwa Tasks Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila On Alleged Attempt To Cover Up By Undermining The Probe: 

By Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA)
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Gentlemen of the media, we in the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has been availed series of facts concerning alleged plots by the hierarchy of the Federal House of Representatives on the alleged insider FRAUD in the Chinese loans for Railway arrangements. This is the position prepared by our research team:

"Minister Chibuike Rotimi Amachi's claim that Hon. Dr. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, set up committee to stop development of railway sector in South-South region: A tale of alleged falsehood, deceitfully crafted to evade accountability.

1. Major news media, especially social media platforms has been erupting for some weeks now with reports of bizarre acts of the Nigeria's Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi during an investigative hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements Chaired by Hon. Dr. Ossai Nicholas Ossai. The Committee is conducting legislative enquiries into the contents, compliance and implementation programmes of all Nigeria's contractual and bilateral loan agreements with China.

2. The preliminary revelations by the Committee on how Nigeria may have been deliberately short-changed by the negotiators, managers of these China loans, and implementers of the projects financed with these loans, forced the Minister to put up a histrionic display before the House Committee just to divert attention and quench the already outraged moral susceptibilities of most Nigerians. This regrettable but familiar alleged corrupt tactics has been rightly likened to one of the newest gambit by some members of the Executive Arm of government who see government accountability as a taboo that must be uprooted with blackmail and intimidation. They deploy all sorts of manoeuvres including party influence, sectional and psycho- therapeutic acts to achieve their ugly aims. Nigerians have rightly asked, why is Minister Amaechi threatening Nigerians not to anger the Chinese through this House of Reps enquiries into the contents and implementation of the China loans and contractual agreements? Shouldn't China be interested in the transparent application of these loans? Or is there something more that may have mortgaged the future of Nigerians that Minister Ameachi do not want Nigerians to find out? These and more are questions begging for answers. How can a country continue to advance loans to another country in Billions of Dollars without any form of interest on the transparent utilization and application of such loans by the borrower?

3. When the Minister of Transportation first appeared before the House Committee on Tuesday July 28th, 2020. He told the Committee that "I have spoken to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to suspend this hearing because it will make China to stop giving Nigeria loan". In order words, the Minister is saying Nigeria has gone deep into China and any attempt to upset China will spell doom for the country? The Minister was also heedfully or should I say inadvertently asking the National Assembly to suspend the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria so as to please his Chinese masters. Does the Minister know the implication of asking the National Assembly to suspend enquiry into Nigeria's bilateral loans and contractual agreements until he finished taking more loans? This is more like a thief telling the owner of the house not scream until he finishes stealing.

4. Mr. Amaechi further told the Committee that he doesn't know anything about loan and in fact he just discovered that there are sovereignty waiver clauses in the loan agreements. He said "I don't know anything about loan, I don't take loans, I only supervise the work, nothing about loan concerns me". However, what the Minister failed to tell Nigerians is that all the loan agreements are based on the commercial contracts, which were signed between him and the Chinese contractors. He also failed to inform Nigerians that it was his sole mandate to verify, prepare, sign and issue interim certificates of work done to the contractors before the Ministry of Finance can make payments from the funds (Whether loan facilities or counterpart funding). What this means is that Minister Ameachi is allegedly solely responsible for the application and utilization of these loans. Does he recognise the full weight of such responsibilities? Should Nigerians not ask questions when someone with such an important role in the management and utilization of the loans claim he knows nothing about loans?

5.The Minister obviously fell out of luck when his alleged orchestrated deceit was unravelled by the Committee Chairman, who rightly queried the Minister's claim of not knowing anything about the loans. The Ministry of Finance further confirmed that loan negotiations will usually involve the Ministry where the projects is domiciled, the Debt Management Office (DMO) and the Ministry of Finance.

6. How can a Minister who says he knows nothing about loans, turn around to beg the House Committee to suspend the probe to enable him get more loans from China? Why is Amaechi talking from both side of his mouth? Why should Nigeria entrust Billions of Dollars of foreign loans in the hands of a Minister who claimed management such monies do not concern him? If Mr. Rotimi Amaechi doesn't know anything about loan why is he so agitated over the House of Representatives probe? It is troubling that a Minister who is obligated by the agreements to verify work done to ensure relevant compliance, sign and issue interim payment certificates to contractors and payment advisory to Ministry of Finance for projects financed by loan facilities to claim he doesn't know anything about the loans and then allegedly cook up falsehood just evade accountability under the guise that China will get angry with Nigeria. Is Nigeria now a new colony of China?

7. Mr. Amaechi also claimed to Nigerians that the waiving of Nigeria's sovereignty clause in the loan agreements does not matter technically, maintaining that "The the clause will only empower the Chinese to take-over the assets they built in the event Nigeria is unable to pay back the loans." Nigerians need to ask the Minister to point to any clause either in the loan agreements or the commercial contracts agreements where this so called assets take-over arrangement was stated? Can the Minister explain to Nigerians why him and his co-travellers jettisoned the Federal Government Circular issued by the President of Nigeria through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of Federation on 11th August 2014 on the "Protection of Nigeria's sovereignty and Corporations from foreign arbitration jurisdictions"? During the loan and commercial contracts agreements? Should an Honourable Minister who allegedly flagrantly flouts/perverts Presidential Circular on such an important issue such as national sovereignty receive a pat on the back for attempting to economically and politically mortgage the future of our children?

8. The Minister nefariously alleged that the current probe is partisan. This claim is even laughable coming from a Minister of ruling party with majority in both House of Reps and the Senate. But the real question is, should we reduce government accountability and constitutionally mandated legislative oversight to a mere partisan discussion especially when it is common knowledge that: a. National Assembly of Nigeria does not have party based committee system. b. Membership of legislative Committees are composed of both APC, PDP and other political party Members. How can the probe be partisan when the motion that led to the Committee's latest enquiries in the loans and commercial contracts were unanimously adopted by the entire House of Representatives at plenary? What is partisan about a committee of the House conducting its constitutional responsibility in line with sections 62, 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? How can the probe be partisan when loan agreements signed even under Presidents Obasanjo, Yar'Adua, Jonathan and President Buhari are all part of the review process? Why is Mr. Amaechi not telling Nigerians that one of the loan agreements being probed in his ministry was taken under President Jonathan's administration in 2010 to which he had carried out several levels of variations on? These facts completely nullifies the so called partisan claims, Mr. Amaechi is using as plea bargain to escape accountability? Nigerians are not fools, Mr. Amaechi's aimless quest to seek shelter under a partisan hat is rather comical and an insults to the collective sensibilities of Nigerians. His call the Speaker of the House of Representatives to stop Hon. Ossai Ossai from carrying on with the investigative hearing is deliberate attempt to truncate democracy and extinguish the legislative arm of government.

9. How exactly did Hon. Dr. Ossai Ossai tried to stop development of railway project in the South-South region through his Committee responsibilities? The table below shows loans secured by the Federal Government to be implemented by the Ministry of Transportation under the leadership of Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Minister.

Projects
Date Signed
End-User
Contract Price US Dollars
Loan in US Dollars
Nigerian Railway Modernization Project (Idu-Kaduna Section)

20/12/2010
Federal Ministry of Transport
$849.750, 903Million
$500.00 Million
Nigerian Railway Modernization Project Phase II (Lagos -Ibadan Section)

18/08/2017
Federal Ministry of Transport
$1.581,847,371Billion
$1,267.317,586.10 Billion
Nigerian Four Airport Terminal Expansion Ancillary Project

27/12/2019
Federal Ministry of Transport
$183.62 Million
Nigerian Four Airport Terminal Expansion Incremental Project

27/12/2019
Federal Ministry of Transport
$208.90 Million
Nigerian Railway Modernization Project (Lagos to Kano)

In Process
Federal Ministry of Transport
$5.3 Billion
The data above clearly reveals the sections of the country Minister Amaechi has been working for in the last five and half years of this administration. Even the latest USD$5.3Billion he begging for Nigeria to borrow from China will be used to construct Ibadan to Kano railway project not South-South. So where is the South-South Railway project Amaechi says Hon. Dr. Ossai wants to stop him from developing? Nigerians can see from the records that both his previous and latest borrowings doesn't cover any single railway track in South-South region. So why is Amaechi invoking regional emotional politics just to blackmail the Chairman of House Committee on Treaties and Agreements?

10.1. For the records, the commercial contracts for the Lagos - Ibadan section of the Railway projects was signed at a cost of USD1.5Bilion plus; on the 18th of August 2017, a loan of USD$1.267pts Billion Dollars for the project was secured from China. On the 23rd of December 2019, the Minister carried out major variations on the existing contracts of the Lagos-Ibadan rail projects that attracted additional costs of USD$94pts Million Dollars, USD$374,204,953 Million Dollars and USD$282,607,262.35 Million Dollars respectively excluding the original contract sum of over USD1.5Billion Dollars, which when added will amount to over USD2Billion Dollars for just lagos-Ibadan alone. While this was going on, Mr. Amechi did not remember, nor consider South-South region.

10.2. On the 31st of August 2016, Mr. Amaechi signed a fresh commercial contract with a Chinese company for a railway projects for (Kaduna-Kano Section) to the tune of USD$1.685Billion plus, on 26th February, 2020, the Minister carried out yet another variation on the contract, this time, he segmented it in two sections and re-scoped the work. The contract price for the first section (Kaduna (Rigasa, Rigasa Station not included) to Kaduna (Zaria, Zaria Station included) is USD$485,694658.46 Million Dollars. The second section (Kaduna (Zaria) to Kano segment) was awarded at the cost of USD$736,021,997.36 Million Dollars. It must be noted that some key sections of the projects such as some of the stations where excluded from these arrangements possibly to be rewarded at a different time in the future.

10.3. On the 15th Day of May, 2018, the Minister signed a new commercial contract agreements with the Chinese to the tune of staggering sum of USD$6,681,452,757 Billion Dollars to construct Ibadan to Kaduna ( section with double track) and with branch line from Osogbo to Ado-Ekiti (single track).

10.4. On the 26th February , 2020, the Minister effected a major variation by introducing a revised section, to construct Ibadan to Minna section (single track) of 460 kilometre awarded to the Chinese at a contract price of USD$3,311,747,998.44 Billion Dollars.That same 26th February, 2020, the Minister of Transportation -Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi signed a fresh contract with the Chinese company to construct Minna to Abuja section of approximately 127 Kilometres (single track) at a contract price of USD$999,824,656.22 Million Dollars.

10.5. On the 22nd day of December 2016, the Minister revised the early agreement of 16th December 2013 by the previous administration to design, supply, installation and commissioning of complete integrated system of signalling and telecommunications equipment for the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard gauge railway line in Kogi and Delta States at the cost of N10,930,406,536.00 Billion citing impediments on payment clauses as the reason for the decision. In the revised contract agreement of 2016 signed by Mr. Amaechi on the project, the payments and inspection conditions were changed to favour the Chinese companies and at higher exchange rate in dollars without any mention of the future value of the 15% advance payment made to the ZTE consortium of China since 2013 by previous government.

10.6. On the 14th Day of November 2014, the Ministry of Transportation under the previous administration signed a contract for the Nigeria Coastal Railway Project with CCECC of China at a contract price of USD11,974,769,721.74 Billion Dollars. The contract was to cover Lagos-Shagamu-Ijebu Ode-Ore-Binin City -Sapele - Warri - Yenagoa (With siding to Otuoke) -Port Harcourt- Aba- Uyo - Calabar with branch line from Benin City - Abudu -Agbor -Uko -Ogwashi Uku -Asaba - Onitsha (with Onitsha railway bridge). The total track length was 1402km, among which, Lagos - Benin City -Onitsha section (with Onitsha railway bridge) (450.5km) shall be double track with a track length of 901km, and Benin City -Calabar section (501km) shall be single track with a track length of 501km.

10.6.1. On the 1st of July 2016, Mr. Amaechi revised the Nigeria Coastal Railway Project and signed a new one citing special directive from President Buhari and need for price adjustment due to global economic meltdown. The new agreement divided the projects into six sections of: Lagos- Benin City, Benin City -Warri, Warri - Yenagoa, Yenagoa - Port Harcourt; Port Harcourt - Calabar and Benin - Onitsha (Including the River Niger Bridge). Consequently a new contract price of USD$11,174,756,680.35 was reached according the commercial contract agreements. What is strange about this new contract is that the scope is vague. Also the scope of current agreements doesn't show length of work to be carried out in kilometres. Why blame Hon. Ossai Ossai now, when for four years, the Minister only worked hard to fix the Lagos-Ibadan and did nothing about this particular projects that significantly captures South-South and South-East's region of the country?

10.6.2. The Minister on 31st August 2016, signed a section based contract to implement the Coastal Railway Projects from Calabar to Port-Harcourt designated as section one. The contract was awarded at a cost of USD3,427,741,498.12Billion. Four years after he signed the contract, the project is yet to commence. What should worry Nigerians and the people of South-South is that there no single documents to support Mr. Amaechi's latest claim of railway projects from Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri. If it exists, why is he hiding the documents from Nigerians? Why he not done anything about Port-Harcourt to Calabar rail projects that he signed since 2016?

10.7. On the 18th of December 2017, the Minister signed a fresh contract with a a Chinese company for the rehabilitation of Itakpe Line. To cover Track laying and permanent Way works at Railway Ancillary Facilities Area and completion of 12nos Railway stations to the tune of USD$122,616,588.02Million Dollars.

10.7.1 On 23rd December, 2019, the Minister carried out variations on the rehabilitation project with additional works on the Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail line costing USD$56,113,674.35 thereby bringing the total rehabilitation work to the tune of USD$178,730,262.39.

10.8. Again on the 5th of March, 2018, the Minister of Transportation awarded a contract worth USD$521,492,645.85 Million Dollars barely two years after the official commissioning of the (Idu-Kaduna railway) project for the design, manufacture, supply, installation and commissioning of rolling stocks, supply of spare parts and maintenance equipment for the Idu-Kaduna Railway project (ongoing railway modernization project). The Minister claimed "rail operations at the Iduh-Kaduna rail has been below expectations as evidenced by cases of stranded passengers and breakdown of the locomotives". Nigerians should note that this same project, the Minister spent fresh USD$521Millions Dollars on was constructed at a contract price of USD$849Millions Dollars and commissioned by President Jonathan in 2015 for which Nigeria took a loan of USD$500Million Dollars from China and paid a counterpart funding of USD$349Millions Dollars to the contractors; a debt of which Nigeria will continue to pay till 2030.Yet the Honourable Minister conducted secondary commissioning of the same project in 2016. As if that wasn't enough, the Minister spent more than half a billion dollars in less than two years to repair and maintain without referring back to the contractors obligations in the contract agreements? These humongous expenditures were carried out without express plan for local contents and recruitment of Nigerians. Almost everything was implemented at the emotional discretion of the Minister and his Chinese masters.

11. When the Minister appeared at the resumed hearing of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements on Monday the 17th of August, 2020, he was asked by the Committee Chairman to explain to the Committee and Nigerians the status of these contracts he has signed which in excess of USD33Billion Dollars. The Minister screamed on top of his voice claiming that he had only signed contracts to the sum of about USD1.6Billion Dollars since he assumed office. Even with the chronicled facts contained items 10.1 to 10.8 above as contained in the abridged documents he submitted. Why is Mr. Amaechi in the face of these facts stil hiding all these contracts he signed in Billions of Dollars from Nigerians? What financial plan was in place before these incessant signing of contractual agreements? Should a Minister of the Federal Republic just be allowed to signing contractual agreements without accountability and without any concrete financial plan to fund the projects?

12. Further review of the contractual agreements showed that the Minister was simply running the Ministry as a personal empire with deep nonpareil disposition. Most of the contracts awarded by the Minister never followed any due process, none of them had the anti-corruption clauses, some of the contracts were signed by only Mr. Amaechi and the Chinese people without any witness; the sovereign immunity waiver clause didn't also materially comply with the Federal Government Circular on the subject of sovereign immunity protection. The local contents provisions were vague, obscure and ambiguously cloaked with a lot of personal discretions that will not serve national interest and create jobs for Nigerians. Why should the Minister not subject the contract awards to a competitive process? Should a Minister sign a contract before a financial plan or have a financial plan before signing commercial contracts?

13. During one of his sessions with the House of Representatives Committee, Mr. Amaechi told the Committee that "There are over 20,000 employed Nigerians on the project and about 500 Chinese people". In making this claim the Minister refused to state which of the projects. The Committee insisted he produces physical evidence, he brought a typeset list with about 14,200 unverifiable names. A close review of the supplementary documents he submitted with list of Nigerian employees on the projects revealed 5 or more members of the same families were engaged. This should worry Nigerians, why exhibit such level of favouritism in a country with nearly 40 million unemployed people. The documents were also muddled up with irreconcilable discrepancies. On one hand there are lists of names of about 14,200 Nigerian employees as against the 20,000 he earlier told the Committee. On the other hand, the document on "expenses of local employment shows that only about 7,000 local employees were on payroll for the projects. Are the other ones volunteers without remuneration/wages?

14.The Minister was unable to provide any evidence of employment of Nigerians in other projects such as the Iduh-Kaduna Railway and Itakpe -Ajaokuta etc projects where the Minister had awarded fresh contracts to the tune of nearly USD$700Million Dollars since 2017. The Minister couldn't provide a single Bill Of Quantities (BOQs) on the any of the projects. Nigerians should be aware that the commercial contract agreements provided for a local content planned implementation documents for training and engagement of local manpower including procurements, but the Minister was unable to submit a single one of such document on any of the railway projects. This actions runs clearly contrary to the Federal Government Executive Order 003 on "Support for local contents of at least 40% in public procurement on all Federal Government projects issued by the President in 2017 and other enabling laws. How then has the Minister been able to ensure that Nigerians benefit maximally from these projects. How many of all these enumerated contracts signed by the Minister is ongoing? How are they being funded? Where is the budget line, schedule of releases and/or any financing plan on these projects? What is the Minister hiding from Nigerians?

15. The Minister latest claim is that he is building Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri Rail Project and that Hon. Ossai Ossai's Committee work is trying to stop him. He has mobilized and paid social media influencers and professional sponsored public commentators to appear on different Tv programs to sale such narrative to the people especially the people of South-South region. It's interesting to observe that there no document that evidences that such a project exist in Nigeria. If the Minister is now constructing Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri, does it mean he has abandoned Port-Harcourt to Calabar which he signed since 2016 without anything to show for it? The allegation is also laughable especially coming from someone who is expected to know better. Hon. Ossai Ossai does not create Committees, Committees are a creation of the constitution of Nigeria as stated earlier, so Hon. Ossai could have set up a committee to disrupt the Minister's imaginary development of the South-South zone. The Honourable Minister should come of the sectional emotional blackmail and answer to Nigerians who he has utilized the Billions of Dollars of tax payers money committed to his Ministry. Government accountability is not for a select few, it should be all.

16. The Minister's tactics of comic relief, intimidation and/or elimination obviously has not charmed the strong character, resilience, patriotic and nationalistic spirit of the Committee Chairman. Minister Amaechi's agitation, aggression and unfortunate comic displays during the public hearing leaves no one in doubt that something is amidst with the Ministry of Transportation under his leadership.

17. The Honourable Minister claimed that the loans are projected based and that the projects can repay the loans. How true is this assertion? Where is the loans viability and sustainability report that corroborates this claim? How much has the commissioned railway projects generated in revenue so far? How much has the projects contributed towards repayment of interests and principal amounts of these loans?

18. Why is the Honourable Minister hiding relevant documents relating the contractual agreements from Nigerians. The Committee had written to the Minister asking for:

Copies of contractors interim payment claims from inception till date

Copies of the Employer's interim payment certificates from inception till date

Documented evidence of records of Insurance premiums paid and compensation for local inhabitants made on the projects.

Copies of certified actual quantity of work performed and measured before payments advisory to the Ministry of Finance

Certified copies of the performance bond lodged with the Ministry

Copies of certificate of completion for completed projects

Copies of take-over certificates for projects that has been handed over to the Ministry.

BOQs used to implement the commercial contracts
Copies of the local content plan for training and engagement of Nigerian labour force in all aspects of the projects

Evidence of the total number of Nigerians and Chinese working on the projects

Copies of the budget heads and schedule of releases for the counterpart funding paid on the projects from inception till date

Details of the revenue and payment accounts maintained on these projects.

Documented current work or operation status reports on each of the projects

Copy of the Federal Government Circular on the guide for waiver of sovereign immunity dated 11 August, 2018, which the Minister said he relied on to draw the immunity waiver clause in some of his contractual agreements.

19. The Minister is yet to submit any of these documents to enable the House of Reps Committee deal with issues of compliance, implementation and viability these loans with a view to review the loan and contractual agreements.

20. For someone who have had the privilege of serving as Speaker of a State Assembly, served two terms as an executive Governor of a State and now in his second term as a federal Minister to deploy the tact of emotional and sectional blackmail to evade accountability is not just too dangerous for our governance system but very troubling for the Nigerian society. Minister Amaechi's arrogant display, grandstanding and tales of falsehood brings to mind the question Mr. Patrice Lumumba asked Nigerian public officers "Are you Honourable Members or Horrible Members"? Is Mr. Amaechi an Honourable Minister or A Horrible Minister of the Federal Republic? Nigerians must continue to ask questions."

GENTLEMEN OF THE MEDIA WE ARE CHALLENGING THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS NOT TO ENSLAVE NIGERIANS BUT TO INVESTIGATE THE ABOVE DISTURBING ALLEGATIONS.

COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO:
NATIONAL COORDINATOR.
Miss Zainab Yusuf:
Director, National Media Affairs.
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).

14TH OCTOBER 2020.