By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport and Committee of the Senate on Land Transport and Local and Foreign debts has clarified reasons why the Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi was summoned over the abandoned eatern rail line project.
He gave the clarification, yesterday, during senate committee sitting following fiery questions of Shehu Sanni, which Ashafa described as being unrelated to why Amaechi was summoned.
The Minister had been summoned by the Senate following a motion of Urgent National importance moved by the deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu on the fate of the the Eastern Railway Development involving Port Harcourt, Enugu, Makurdi, Yola, Delta and Maiduguri, after it was reported that General Electric had pulled out of a concession agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria and therefore abandoned the rail project.
The Minister allayed the fears of Nigerians saying, it was not a case of the concessionaire pulling out of the concession agreement but rather the fact that due to some internal restructuring at General Electric, the company had withdrawn totally from the business of transportation.
Amaechi however, stated that General Electric had handed over their interest in the Nigerian Narrow Gauge Rail Network to “Transnet”, a company who had been a party the concessioning negotiations from inception.
Ashafa had during his opening remarks set the tone for the meeting stating that “this meeting is not an investigative hearing. Rather it is an interactive session to enable the Minister brief the representatives of the Nigerian people, through the two committees directly concerned with the issue at hand.
“As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, I am well aware of President Muhamadu Buhari’s commitment towards ensuring that every geo-political zone benefits from the presence of the Standard Gauge rail being constructed in the country.”
There session was however, heated up when Senator Obinna Ogba accused the minister of deriding the Igbo people and asked that the Minister withdraw his comments.
Subsequently, the co-chairman of the sitting Sanni, accused the minister of being selective and partisan in the process of granting academic scholarships to Nigerian Students to study in China.
This led to Ashafa’s intervention by stating that the question asked by Sanni was not within the purview of the summons extended to the Minister and told the Minister that he was at liberty not to answer same.
Amaechi, however, stated that the said scholarships had nothing to do with his ministry and as such could not have been interfered with by him.
The minister stated that the said scholarships were granted by a Chinese company and so reserved the right to determine their criteria with which to select beneficiaries of same.