The Chairman of the Joint Committee of the Senate on Land Transport and Local and Foreign debts, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, on Tuesday, protected the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, from the fiery questions of Senator Shehu Sanni, which Ashafa described as being unrelated to the reason the Minister was summoned.
Recall that Amaechi had been summoned by the Senate following a motion of urgent national importance moved by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu on the fate of the Eastern Railway Development involving Port Harcourt, Enugu, Makurdi, Yola, Delta and Maiduguri, after it was reported that General Electric had pulled out of a concession agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria and therefore abandoned the rail project.
The Hon. Minister wasted no time in allaying the fears of Nigerians saying that it wasn’t a case of the concessionaire pulling out of the concession agreement but rather the fact that due to some internal restructuring at General Electric, the company had withdrawn totally from the business of transportation.
Amaechi, also noted that General Electric had handed over their interest in the Nigerian Narrow Gauge Rail Network to “Transnet”, a company who had been a party the concessioning negotiations from inception.
Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Ashafa, had during his opening remarks set the tone for the meeting stating that “this meeting is not an investigative hearing. Rather it is an interactive session to enable the Honourable Minister brief the representatives of the Nigerian people, through the two committees directly concerned with the issue at hand.”
He added that “as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, I am well aware of President Muhamadu Buhari’s commitment towards ensuring that every geo-political zone benefits from the presence of the Standard Gauge rail being constructed in the country.”
Tempers however rose when Senator Obinna Ogba accused the minister of deriding the Igbo people and asked that the Minister withdraw his comments. Subsequently, the co-chairman of the seating, Senator Sanni accused the Minister of being selective and partisan in the process of granting academic scholarships to Nigerian Students to study in China.
This again drew Ashafa’s intervention by stating that the question asked by Senator Sanni was not within the purview of the summons extended to the Minister and reiterated that he was at liberty not to answer them.
Amaechi, in his response, stated that that the said scholarships had nothing to do with his ministry and as such couldn’t have been interfered with by him. He stressed that the said scholarships were granted by a Chinese company and so reserved the right to determine their criteria with which to select beneficiaries of same.