….over motion to conduct a status inquiry on NRC, Ibadan-Lagos train stoppage
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
A melodrama trailed the debate to a motion to conduct a status of inquiry on Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and the recent Ibadan-Lagos train stoppage as a result of a shortage of fuel.
The majority leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa and the deputy minority leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu were the character in the drama while Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila played the referee.
The drama begins after the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) had moved the motion of urgent national importance, expressing his concern on the inefficiency in the management of NRC which came into existence 112 years.
Elumelu had noted a couple of reports on the inefficiency of the corporation.
He said: “In recent times, there have been series of media reports of how passenger trains breakdown in the middle of nowhere for lack of maintenance thereby subjecting commuters to possible attacks by hoodlums and armed robbers who can brutalize, maim and cart away hard-earned monies and goods of innocent Nigerians.
“The sad episode of Thursday 11th, March 2022, where a train conveying passengers and goods from Lagos to Ibadan came to a halt midway due to insufficient fuel, once again endangering the lives of innocent Nigerian travellers on the trip.
“A train to leave the station with insufficient fuel only to get stuck midway into the journey with traumatised and stranded passengers, is a huge national embarrassment which not only makes our nation a laughing stock in the eyes of the international community but a complete system failure”, he said.
Elumelu however described the excuse by the Managing Director of NRC, Fidelis Okhiria as laughable, decrying a lack of frequent updates from the Committee Chairman on Railway, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas.
The minority leader, therefore, warned that if the irresponsible and careless act by the NRC was not effectively tackled and nipped at the bud, it may one day lead to a major disaster where innocent Nigerians will end up losing their lives, hence the need for the investigation.
But hardly had Elumelu finished that Okechukwu in his contribution to supporting the motion said more lives may be put in danger if no concerted efforts were made to forestall future occurrence.
But the House Leader, Doguwa interjected, saying the motion was straightforward and investigative in nature.
He said that Okechukwu’s contribution was dilatory.
But wading into the verbal exchange, the Speaker, Gbajabiamila faulted Doguwa, saying that an investigative motion can be debated.
He said “I disagree with you, Doguwa. What I know is that infrastructural motions are not debated. But we debate investigative motions in this House all the time. The fact that the mover of the motion said it’s straightforward that’s his own opinion.
To other people in the house, it may not be straightforward. There might be other people that want to oppose the motion. So, if we lay precedence that somebody brings an investigative motion and you say it’s straightforward then exclude others from speaking then it’s dangerous precedence.”
But, Doguwa maintained his position, describing the Deputy Minority Leader, Okechukwu as a messenger of doom.
He recalled that Okechukwu had during the recent debate on the scarcity of aviation fuel intoned that aircraft can crash-land for lack of fuel.
“Mr Speaker I stand guided, Okechukwu is being dilatory because this is someone trying to be like a messenger of doom. Giving us stories about aircraft crashes, how can you be a messenger of doom. The example he gave about aircraft in the air losing fuel to crash is like a messenger of doom”, Doguwa said.
Gbajabiamila then asked Okechukwu to reply.
In his rebuttal, Okechukwu said that his contribution to the motion was necessary because of the huge amount of money sourced from the Chinese to build the infrastructure.
He, therefore, amended the motion that a status enquiry is imposed on the operations of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
Adopting the amendment and the main motion, the House gave the committee 4 weeks to report back to the House.