Rotimi Amaechi, Malami in alleged Railway contract scam as Chinese firms sue for project inflation

Kenya Railways Corporation-min

Hebbelyixin Fastener Company Limited, a Chinese firm, and Duluidas Nigeria Limited, Duliz Dredging and Construction Limited, and Consortium of Duluidas Nigeria Limited, a Nigerian consortium, have sued the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), over an alleged rail contract inflation scam.

The plaintiffs claim that Amaechi and Malami granted a 190-kilometer rail line worth N91.5 billion without due process to another Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), in a case filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday.

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction preventing the defendants from "awarding or pretending to award the contract to the CCECC firm or any third party on the basis of the allegedly faulty bidding procedure" in the FHC/ABJ/CS/1426/2021 lawsuit, which also names the CCECC as a co-defendant.

The plaintiffs are requesting that the Court cancel the "No Objection letter issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in favour of CCECC for award of the N91.5 billion rail line contract, in violation of procurement laws, and re-issue same in their favor," according to the writ of summons issued by their lead counsel, James Okoh.

The disputed contract, according to the plaintiffs, was for the repair of a narrow gauge track from Minna, Niger State, to Baro, with an extension to the Baro River Port, to be completed in 36 months.

The plaintiffs claimed that they had successfully bid for the same contract and quoted a lower amount of N76.7 billion for the project's execution, but that they were shortchanged by the two ministers in favor of CCECC at the inflated rate, alleging ministerial bias against them and undue favoritism in favor of CCECC.

The writ of summons also claimed that Amaechi wrote the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) on May 19, 2021, requesting a certificate of no objection in favor of CCECC in the sum of N91, 580, 101, 710, and that the BPP rejected the Minister's request on June 9, 2021, claiming that such a certificate could only be issued to them based on their quotation of N76.7b to complete the job.

"Along the way, other bidding processes were twisted and compromised," it said, referring to the NRC's receipt of an acceptance letter from CCECC for the Minister to present to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the contract's award.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the Ministers' and their agents' actions in interfering with the due process of the contract bid procedure harmed the integrity of the legal system.

"In the alternative, we are seeking an order setting aside any putative award based on the Nigeria Railway Corporation's (NRC) allegedly faulty and highly tainted bid process, with the consent of other defendants."

"We're also asking for an injunction prohibiting the Minister of Transportation or any of his agents from presenting the CCECC to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the purpose of awarding the contract," it continued.

The matter will be heard on February 17, 2022, by the presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed.

The Chinese government is known to have zero tolerance for contract inflation and scam. Officials found capable could face the firing squad. However, in Nigeria, it could drag on with little or no repercussions.

The project was awarded for a narrow gauge railway when it was downgraded from a standard gauge, which is faster and now in vogue. However, despite the contract price of the project is increased, the specification of the entire project remains that of narrow gauge.

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