Reps oppose concession of Lagos-Kano rail line

The House of Representatives on Tuesday opposed moves by the Federal Executive Council to concession the Lagos-Kano rail line and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri to General Electric.

The Lagos-Kano line is popularly known as the Western line, while the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line is better known as Eatern line.

In pleanry on Tuesday, lawmakers accused the executive of discussing with GE, a US firm, to take over the lines, without involving the Bureau of Public Enterprises.

They also noted that privatisation regulations were not complied with in the talks, adding that they sensed a plot to hand over the rail lines to powerful interests.

The House directed its Committee on Privatisation to investigate the development, which it said violated the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999.

A motion on the subject was moved by Chukwuemeka Ujam.

Contributing to the debate on the motion, the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Yerima Ahmed, noted that by engaging GE, the FEC had assumed the duties of the BPE and the National Council on Privatisation.

He spoke further, “Section 11 (j) outlines the procedures for privatisation; there are four sections to be followed by the BPE and the agency is not being carried along.

“The NCP has not been inaugurated, and in its absence, the BPE is the secretariat for any privatisation.”

Another member, Sani Zorro, complained that certain private interests were plotting to appropriate the rail lines.

He did not mention names.

Zorro added, “They have illegally launched an attempt to take over our refineries; that was resisted.

“They are now making attempts to take over our remaining public assets. We call them parasites because they have the option of starting same businesses from the scratch.”

The Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Relations, Nnena Ukeje, shared the same views as Zorro.

She said she could not understand how the concession would be legal when the National Economic Stimulus Bill had yet to become law.

She stated, “While the approval of the concession to GE is itself a good thing, we cannot sacrifice our laws, our processes on the altar of expediency.

“The President said he would bring a stimulus bill, which seeks to set aside our structures, but it has not been brought before the parliament.”

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