President Muhammed Buhari on Monday demanded explanation from the Ministry of Finance on foreign loans obtained for rail projects by the past administration but diverted to other purposes.
Specifically, the President is seeking clarification on alleged diversion of a substantial part of a loan of $1.005 billion obtained from the Chinese Exim Bank for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos to Kano but which was diverted elsewhere.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu said Buhari sought the explanation when the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, briefed him on the ministry’s activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President was reported to have said it was disappointing to find that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved 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,” the President warned.
Bashar was said to have informed the President that only $400 million of the $1.005billion loan remained with the Ministry of Finance.
The President regretted that government had, over the years, failed to meet its counterpart funding obligation on some projects, leading to such projects being left uncompleted or abandoned.
He added that there was a clear need to “streamline, harmonise and prioritise ongoing projects in the transportation sector.”
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry also briefed the President on other challenges facing the transport and maritime sectors such as encroachment on railway land, lack of security on inland waterways and the confused nature of agreements between the Nigeria Ports Authority and ports concessionaires.
Bashar later told State House corespondent that the ministry would meet the December deadline for the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail track.
He said, “On the rehabilitation programme of the old gauge lines, 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.”