The ad hoc committee set up by the House of Representatives to probe the various contracts awarded by the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, from 2010 to 2014, yesterday threatened to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of 13 contractors that failed to appear before it in relation to the ongoing public investigation.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that in the course of its probe, the committee had written to all the contractors with NRC inviting them to appear before it to know if these contracts were in line with the Public Procurement Act.
But to the surprise of the committee members at its resumed hearing on Thursday, only seven firms were properly represented out of the 23 contractors used by the NRC in executing the different contracts.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Johnson Agbonayinman argued that there was no reason why the contractors should not appear before them having notified them officially.
Agbonayinman insisted that they would be left with no choice but to exercise its legislative powers by issuing a bench warrant for their arrest.
According to him, “There is no reason why these contractors should not be here. Only seven companies are properly represented, while the 13 others are not here. This is unacceptable.
“The former Managing Director of NRC promised to produce the contractors and you (acting MD) were there when this promise was made. They are holding us back in doing our job.
“These are contractors you gave job, I think we will issue a bench warrant on these contractors. We will not accept this anymore.”
The chairman explained that the ad hoc committee was set up to probe the contract awarded from 2010 and 2014 by the NRC, stressing that the essence of the investigative hearing was to ensure that the process of the award of contracts met guidelines as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act.
He also hinted that the probe would unravel if such contracts were really awarded as well as ascertain how taxpayers money were utilised in the contracts.
Agbonayinman said they wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF to appear before it, but rather said they got a reply that was not cheering.
“We got a reply letter from the SGF and the content of that letter was not suitable to us. Nobody is above the law. All of us are working for the betterment of this country,” Agbonayinman noted.
Acting managing director of NRC, Engineer Fidet Okhirca pleaded with the committee to still give the contractors more time to appear before the committee.
He admitted that it was difficult for him to force them to come, especially now that they were no longer handling any project for them.
In his presentation, former Minister of Transport, Isa Ibrahim Biu said during his stay in office (from December 18, 2008 to March 17, 2010), there was more of politicking than governance, informing the committee that he signed only one contract during his tenure – rail line from Kaduna to Abuja, adding that the contract was worth $843million.


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