NUJ President Berates BPP Over Failed N67.3 Billion Eastern Railway Rehabilitation Project

Press Release
December 2, 2020.

The President of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Christopher Isiguzo has criticized Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for abetting flagrant abuse of public procurement act which marred a N67.3 billion contract to rehabilitate a section of eastern railway line awarded since March 2011.

Isiguzo expressed disappointment over the railway contract on Wednesday during a radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG.

He was reacting to the investigative report by Premium Times which revealed how an unregistered firm, Eser Contracting and industry Company Incorporated was awarded a N19.2 billion railway rehabilitation contract in violation of public procurement regulations.

He expressed disappointment in BPP’s issuance of a “Certificate of No Objection” to an unregistered company which cleared the way for the Nigeria Railway Corporation to award the contract to the company in 2011, and Federal Government’s level of response to reports of corruption in Nigeria.

“I can assure you that nobody will be satisfied with what we are seeing at the moment; it is not enough and that is the truth. The government have got to up their game, they’ve got to be more committed and must show more zeal.”

According to Isiguzo, the numerous corruption reports in Nigeria today is no longer surprising to citizens. “We are used to it; sadly, that is the reality.

“Those culpable are not just owners of Eser West Africa, those in BPP are culpable because I don’t think that by the BPP regulation you are expected to award a contract to a company that is not registered. That in itself is an aberration. You can see that so many heads are supposed to be rolling by now but let us not lose hope or give up,” Isiguzo said.

On the importance of the railway line rehabilitation project, he said: “such a strategic project will substantially reduce carnage on our roads because most of these goods that would have been transported from Maiduguri to Port-Harcourt on rail, but it will now be seen on our normal roads and of course the level of dilapidation remains on the increase,” he said.

Similarly, the Program Officer at Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Stephanie Adams disclosed that Nigerians who are supposed to benefit from the rehabilitation of Maiduguri to Port Harcourt railway are disappointed at the failure of the project.

Her words: “A lot of Nigerians are disappointed because the rehabilitation is supposed to be one of the longest and most effective rail lines in Nigeria from Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri and it is going to be an easy one for transport of food and people for businesses.

“When we interacted with some people, especially at Kuru in Plateau state, they just laughed. It is more like Nigerians have accepted the issue of corruption.

Adams noted that it was worrying that these people that perpetrated the corruption in railway line rehabilitation project are yet to be sanctioned. “Nothing has been done, besides, we are talking about N67.3 billion for a contract and this is taxpayer’s money and we are supposed to benefit from it irrespective.

“There is still that comfort and we also know that the EFCC is working on it but the question is, for how long? And will there be any form of responsibility? Will anyone be held responsible? We know Nigeria is known for non-acknowledgement of accountability,” she stated.

While, the Program Executive at Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Ijeoma Okereke said that it was shocking to find out during their investigation that one of the contractors of the railway line rehabilitation project used equipment that existed as far back as 1960s in 2020.

Okereke revealed also that prominent Nigerians are shareholders of one of the companies indicted in the investigation.

She called on citizens to cooperate with the media in unfolding the corruption in the country, noting that journalists rely massively on the citizens to expose corruption in the country.

“journalists job is to expose corruption and provide information for the citizens, but you know that we cannot do it without citizens as well, so, when we reach out to give out this information, always be willing to open up and share some of these stories,” Okereke stated.

Premium Times report had disclosed that the eastern railway line rehabilitation project was divided into three sections: 463 KM Port Harcourt-Makurdi was awarded to Eser contracting and industry company at the sum of N19.2 billion; 1016 KM Makurdi-Kuru was awarded to CGGC Global Projects Nigeria Limited at N24.5 billion; while 640 KM Kuru to Maiduguri, went to a contractor identified as Lingo at N23.7 billion.

The syndicated radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE is produced by PRIMORG with the support from the MACARTHUR FOUNDATION.

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