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Buhari queries diversion of $600million rail loan
Buhari talks tough

Buhari queries diversion of $600million rail loan


President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered full investigation into the diversion of about $600 million, which is part of a foreign loan obtained from the Chinese Exim Bank for the construction of the Lagos- Kano standard gauge rail lines.

The president queried the figures after he was briefed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Sambo Bashar, who said only $400 million out of the $1.005 billion obtained from the foreign bank was presently with the Ministry of Finance. The permanent secretary was at the State House in continuation of the briefing being received by the President from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to verify the handover notes submitted by the immediate administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He told the president that a substantial part of the loan, which was facilitated by the Ministry of Finance, had been diverted to sources unknown to the Ministry of Transport. “President Buhari was reacting to the specific instance of the diversion of a substantial part of the loan of $1.005 billion from the Chinese Exim Bank, obtained for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos to Kano, but which was moved elsewhere.

“The permanent secretary had informed the president that only $400 million of that loan remained with the Ministry of Finance,” a statement yesterday by presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said. Adesina said the president regretted that government had, over the years, failed to meet its counterpart funding obligation on some projects, leading to such projects being abandoned. Buhari said it was disappointing to find that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved from one project to another.

“I hope that due process was followed before such diversions were carried out. Taking money from one project to another has to be done properly,” the president stated.

He added that there was need to streamline, harmonise, and prioritise on-going projects in the transportation sector. The Permanent Secretary also briefed the president on other challenges facing the transport and maritime sectors such as encroachment on railway land, lack of security on inland waterways and the confused nature of agreements between the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and ports concessionaires.

The permanent secretary later told State House correspondents in an interview that work on the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail rehabilitation has reached an advanced stage and would be delivered by December. Sambo said the ministry had already ordered and paid for locomotives, which would be used on the rail tracks that have been fully laid.

He said: “With regards to Abuja-Kaduna, track has been completely laid and we are now waiting for locomotives to arrive, which have been ordered and paid for. Our belief is that we will meet the deadline of December 2015. “I think the rehabilitation programme of the old gauge lines, as you are aware, we have completed the Lagos-Kano and it is operational.

“Twice a week, people move from Lagos to Kano and back to Lagos. We have also recently commenced operation from Kano to Port Harcourt, and Port Harcourt to Gombe and from Gombe upwards we have some challenges.” Sambo said the president expressed readiness to provide capacity for individual operators in the transport sector to enhance efficient service delivery.

According to him, the president, during the meeting, directed the ministry to pay more attention to execution of major agreements signed to deliver projects that would improve the sector.

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