Following an alleged rail contract scam to the tune of N1trillion, a Past Board Chairman of the Nigerian Railway Cooperation, Haliru Mohammad Bello has denied involvement in the award of any contracts saying that it was the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) which awarded contracts not the board, even though he signed the documents giving the approval.
Fielding questions from the ad-hoc committee set up by the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged scam, Bello cited Section 22 of the Procurement Act, which excluded the Board from awarding contracts.
The PDP acting Board of Trustees Chairman argued that the NRC Board only carried out oversight functions of contracts approved by FEC, reiterating that he only signed the contract agreements but did not award the contracts.
Asked for the records as to whether he awarded contracts at any time with the possibility of forgetting same, Bello said: “That would have been against the law, I signed contract agreements but did not award contracts.
And when he was taken up regarding how many of such contract he signed, he told the committee “I cannot recall all the contracts I signed. It is quite a long time and I’m 70 years old”.
“The decision making powers lie with the Tenders Board”, Bello told the committee.
He further explained that the NRC had various Board Committees who receive reports from the engineers and report back to the Board for policy directives and decisions.
Also asked whether he was involved in the sale of metal scraps during his tenure as Board Chairman as indicated in the document before the committee, Bello said, he recalled giving a directive of the sale of scraps in the railway yards but said he did not know if it was eventually sold during his tenure which spanned from 2009 to 2011.
However, the minister of Transport, Chinuike Rotimi Amaechi told the committee that the ministry is in discussion with contractors for the realisation of work on the standard gauge rail system from Lagos to Kano.
He said with the availability of funds to prosecute the projects, both Lagos-Kano and Portharcourt-Calabar line would be made operational in few years time.
He told the committee that the passage of the 2016 budget is what the Ministry is waiting for to swing into action.
Also asked if he awarded contracts to an Eser, a company allegedly owned by one of his relatives, the former Managing Director of NRC Mr. Seyi Sijuade said that he is not aware of any of his relations owning Eser.
He went ahead to brief the committee on the progress made by the Corporation under his leadership following approvals from the Federal Executive Council.