President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the Ministry of Finance to justify the $1.005 billion foreign loans obtained for rail project linking Lagos to kano in which about $600 million was diverted elsewhere under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance.
This was disclosed by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of transport Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, while briefing the President on the activities of the Ministry at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking at the end of the presentation by the Permanent Secretary was the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media & Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu who said the President was downhearted to hear that foreign loans designed for a particular project was diverted. This was a reaction to a statement by Alhaji Bashir who said a significant part of the $1.005 billion loan from the Chinese Exim Bank, secured for the purpose of constructing a standard gauge rail line linking lagos and Kano was diverted elsewhere.
The loan which was obtained under former President Goodluck Jonathan, has only about $400 million of it left with the Ministry of Finance, the Permanent Secretary said.
The President then insisted on the importance of following due process in the transfer of funds 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.”
President Buhari was disappointed that over time, government had failed on their part in the funding of projects, leading to the abandonment of some major projects across the country, he then insisted on the importance of streamlining, harmonizing and prioritizing of on-going projects in the transportation sector.
The President then debunked the general believe that Nigeria is a rich nation suggesting the lack of economic advancement and improved social services as barrier to the nations growth and development.
The Permanent Secretary, who spoke after the meeting, said the President has given a strict directive on the compliance to terms and conditions of loans.
“Basically, what we did was to present to the President the various programmes, projects and the reform efforts that we have been undertaking in the last couple of years, the stages of the various projects, especially the railway rehabilitation programme and development in our seaports. Also some of the regulatory issues that we sought are due for review and attention.
“The President quite appreciated a lot of what has been achieved so far and he has indicated his willingness to continue with a lot of projects and programmes already on ground. He has expressed his support, especially when we started talking about capacity building for individual operators in the country. He is really appreciative of the entrepreneur initiatives of Nigerians, an indication that government will continue to give its full support.
“There are issues that he thinks we should pay a lot of attention to, especially in the execution of agreements that we have entered into. He emphasized the need to adhere strictly to the terms of agreements and we are going to abide by that.
“Basically, those agreements are relating to the projects we entered into with the construction of railway, standard gauge lines and rehabilitation programmes.
“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.
“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.”
This came just after the President set up a seven man Presidential Advisory Committee against corruption headed by Professor Itse Sagay.