INTERVIEW: Why Jonathan could not accuse me of corruption – Amaechi

Rotimi Amaechi
Rotimi Amaechi

In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, speaks on the challenges and advantages of Nigeria’s latest rail transport system, Rivers State politics and the ruling All Progressives Congress.

PT: What are the challenges you have faced in this ministry?

Amaechi: Money has been the basic challenge. The contracts that you need to deliver on a railway are in tonnes of naira. Take for example the approval by the president that we should do a railway from Abuja to Lokoja to join Itakpe to Warri as well as a sea pot in Warri; that project was put at $3.1 billion, which is nearly N1 trillion. Where will you get the money from?

PT: When you say that money is your problem, what are you doing with the private sector?

Amaechi: I don’t know why people engage in this debate without looking at the realities. Everywhere in the world when it comes to real operation, people get involved. Like we are having a real operation investment in the narrow gauge in which GE is bringing about two million dollars to revive the old narrow gauge and run them by themselves.

But when it comes to real construction, it is usually the government because they are in trillions. How many persons can raise that? The contract from Lagos to Kano is $8.3 billion, the contract from Lagos to Calabar is $11.1 billion dollars. At N300 per dollar, that is N3.3 trillion.

PT: You have just explained that one of the reasons why government takes charge of real construction is because of the requirement for huge sums of money. Yet you had stated that the River Niger dredging costs this government only N100 million. Were you referring to maintenance dredging there or capital dredging?

Amaechi: Maintenance dredging. But what is capital dredging? It’s the same 2.5-meter draft. The work has been slow because the dredgers were rented out. Next year I have told them to include it in their budget to buy a very big dredger, so you don’t need to award the contract. What will a contractor do other than to use a dredger to desilt the river; which you can do if you have your staff?

PT: So, what you are saying is that because dredgers are not adequately available, the contract was outsourced?

Amaechi: I said NIWA is handling the contract. Nobody will do it for you at N100 million now. The only way you can do it at N100 million is that you are paying the staff their regular salary and you are buying diesel to fuel the dredger and the dredger belongs to NIWA.

PT: Recently when you announced that with the improvement in patronage of trains, the Kaduna Abuja rail now generates N30 million monthly; you added that the operational cost is N56 million per month. Does that mean the rail is being run at a monthly deficit of N26 million?

Amaechi: Of course. Because you are subsidising. Where will you run a rail transport for N1,000 and then the business coach is N1, 500? The passengers themselves are the people begging that we should increase the cost of transportation and we are hoping that by October, when we receive more coaches, we will increase the price. I don’t know how much we will increase it to. But we will increase the price so that even if we do not pay the entire cost of operation, we can at least reduce the loss.

We expect about 10 to 17 more coaches by October. I think by the time the new coaches and locomotives arrive, we will be doing 130 kilometres per hour. The current speed is 80 kilometres and the train has a capacity of 150 kilometres per hour.

PT: We understand that some people are already taking advantage of the scarcity to extort money from unsuspecting passengers by purchasing these tickets for the normal price of N1, 000 and selling at high prices as N3000. What do you intend to do about this?

Amaechi:  There is nothing you can do about it. Ordinarily, what law is the man breaking? The man is trading. He buys a ticket and he offers you at N3000. If you don’t want to buy, you don’t want to buy.

The man is not creating scarcity, the scarcity is because government is not able to bring in more coaches. So, the solution to it is go and bring in more coaches, the man won’t have a business. As soon as we bring in more coaches and have between 10 to 17 coaches; there will be too many space for the man not to have that market. We currently have only four coaches. These four coaches can only take 120 passengers. So, if you have about 800 passengers, that means there is a deficit of about 600 and something. So, some passengers will pay more if they must go to Kaduna.

PT: Having completed the Kaduna Abuja rail, would you consider it part of your achievements, given the fact that it was not originally your project?

Amaechi: That will be very unfair. For instance, why is the Itakpe-Warri not running? It was awarded 30 years ago. Now, we are focusing on it and if N100 billion is required to complete it and we bring that; then they say, ‘no it’s not your project’. You see, that’s why politicians don’t complete projects if it is abandoned, because you will go and say; ‘it’s not your projects. It’s like what I told my supporters in Rivers State; that it doesn’t matter if Wike completes a project I started and takes the glory. We did not believe in the principle of commissioning projects. He believes in the principle of commissioning projects, then let him go ahead. We believe you are employed by the people, your salary is paid by the people; and then you do your job and call the people to come and dance with you, because you have done your job?

Let us consider the Kaduna-Abuja rail that you talked about. It is part of the Lagos-Kano. It was close to 90 per cent competed. But key is that there were some things that we needed to address: we had to deal with the obstacles. One of them is that the Catholic Church needed land and compensation for their land and the buildings we were going to demolish. We paid the compensation. Personally, I went to the Minister for FCT and got the approval for a Certificate of Occupancy and handed it over to them and we got government to fence their land for them and they vacated. So, you cannot say it is not our project. We are not laying credit. What matters is that business is running.

The Itakpe-Warri rail was awarded in 1987, and up till today, it has not been completed. About 50 kilometres have been vandalised – from Itakpe to Lokoja. Now, we are awarding a fresh contract to CCECC to enable us rebuild from Itakpe to Lokoja. Hopefully, cabinet should be able to discuss it once we send a memo.

PT: Among the various allegations against you by Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike, he accused you of admitting to have taken $39 billion for the construction of a specialist hospital in your state, which was never built. Would you comment on that?

Amaechi: That is not completely correct. To the extent that we paid, yes! That is correct. Our contribution to that project was three billion. So, we had given them that money, which they utilised. I arrested the man and handed him over to the police, because if he knew from day one that he wanted me to award him contract, then he should have said so. I would have looked for the money. I would use the public procurement process. But he came behind and said, ‘bring 10 per cent, we will bring 90 per cent’. And that excited me as a governor and I brought the N10 per cent he promised and then he came to me and said; ‘I have done this; I have done that’; they do not have money, and that is what we disagreed on. So how does that constitute corruption? They had finished the foundation, 18 floors.

I am not too happy that it is now that Nigerians will say I am so corrupt. Why did Goodluck not prosecute me or even accuse me then? When I was accusing him and shouting corruption. Don’t forget I was the first person to shout that $49 billion was missing from NNPC. Sanusi wrote the letter, but kept quiet. I stumbled upon it and went public.  The CBN president wrote in September and then I saw it the next year. A lot of people tried to compromise me and I refused.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan [Photo Credit: Ikenga Chronicles]
Former President Goodluck Jonathan [Photo Credit: Ikenga Chronicles]

When I spoke up about oil subsidy; do you think I was not tempted? Under Obasanjo, oil subsidy was N300 billion, under Yar’Adua oil subsidy was N300 billion. Under Jonathan’s first six month in office, oil subsidy rose from N300 billion to N1.7 trillion! You think they did not invite me, that nobody spoke to me? You think nothing happened behind? I will write my book. Nobody accused me of corruption all that time. Then, suddenly one young man comes up and says, ‘Oh! He is corrupt! Two years after leaving office, they have not prosecuted Amaechi; I have no immunity.

PT: Are you sure you were not prosecuted because you were a governor at the time? That’s considering your question that the Goodluck Jonathan administration never prosecuted you.

President Buhari resumes office
President Buhari resumes office

But why did they not even accuse me? I was not prosecuting him, I was accusing him. They know; Goodluck Jonathan knows that I don’t like money, if they want to be honest.

PT: Can you tell us about the recently reported practitioner’s operating fee for ports officials that was introduced by this administration?

Amaechi: It was there by law. The only thing that happened is that when I came, these people were collecting the money that the law says government should collect and give them a percentage. When I came in, I told them that we should implement the law. They refused. They took me to court. You don’t come and threaten me. The only person that can threaten me now and I will kneel down is my wife. Not men. Let him pull out, other people will come in. The law says you will pay x y z first, then government will split it with you. But first, you will pay that money to government.

PT: Given the economic recession and its effects on the masses, coupled with the controversies that have trailed the president’s medical vacation especially in recent times, would you say that the ruling party still has nothing to worry about in the next election?

Amaechi: I am not the party’s chairman.

PT: But as a member of his party, would you say that the cabinet is not bothered, for example about the president’s health and other related issues?

Nyesom Wike
Nyesom Wike

Amaechi: What should bother us should be the President’s health. He has left everything in order. Once we know that he is alive and is recuperating, that calls for celebration.

Shouldn’t we be thankful about where we are now? Have you checked our rating in Transparency International’s list of corrupt countries? Is anybody chasing you out of the roads now because somebody important is passing? We are not high-profile ministers. The challenges were fait accompli. Apparently, we were going to go into recession. Now, we are walking out of this recession. A lot of indicators show that we are. The only problem we have is the cost of food production. We were importing about 3 million tonnes of rice, now we are saying let’s produce at home.

Give it the next 10 years and the price of rice will go down.


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  • deri best

    Amaechi is a thief—-payment made by Jonathan on the oil subsidy issue included debts owed by Obj and Yara Adua–to oil contractors——And without the payment of these debts—nothing would have moved——in the oil sector—It was the same Amaechi who took Jonathan to court—over the excess crude oil account—-The man is just struggling to survive——what has he done for the SS—in d area of erecting rail transport

    • Opekete

      That is not entirely true. The truth is that a lot of fraudulent invoices was presented to the government for fuel that was never imported and payments were made for those fake invoices. The revelation and people that were sent to jail is a testimony to this fact. There are still a lot of people our there who were involved in this fraudulent scheme of oil import and most of them if not all were encouraged by the administration of GEJ. The truth is that GEJ administration was very very corrupt and wasteful.

      • yusuf Mikail

        The Scammers claimed they imported subsidized petroleum products and when GEJ tried to stop the entire subsidy scam, he was denied the opportunity. We did not cooperate with him. Now we turn around to accuse him of doing nothing! Is it fair? My friend, you are wrong. Nigerians did not help him to stop corruption.

    • George

      A day is coming that Ameachi will be require to re-explain himself.

      Let him continue dancing to Mallams musics.

  • Dan maikoko

    Somebody should tell Ameachi that if it will take rice 10 years to come down then there will be very few nigerians alive then to buy it . This is insensitive.

    • George

      Your region voted for changes so be patient boy ten years is around the corner. Just pray you survived if not tell God you voted against his anointing GEJ out of anger and got hunger as reward

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    Some poster of comments in this forum are messengers of the chief thug in Rivers State, who would not touch on the main issues discussed by the Federal minister of transport,Rotimi Amaechi, but always seize any news forum to attack Mr Rotimi Amaechi, despite the good legacy of various developmental projects he achieved as governor of Rivers State, for eight years.
    Some comment posters are so naive to suggest Mr Amaechi, should approach private sector to source funds to construct sea-port or Federal higways in a country like Nigeria.
    These arch-enemies of the transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi,would not condemn or attack the chief thug and killer, in the Rivers State, who was caught dolling millions of Naira out to INEC top officials in order to rig the outcome of the senate and house of representatives by-election held recently in Rivers State, the plots which were exposed to the security agencies.

    • George

      Yoruba man pls leave Rivers alone face lagos where your tinubu doesn’t gives money and let’s face our own where Wike gives money. Silly old monkey God will punish you for lying shamelessly.

    • Patrick Otobo

      So you believe it is only Wike that is organizing the violence in rivers state while Ameachi look the other way? reason why you called wike the chief thug, then you are making a big mistake!!!

  • Kallah Bature

    Mr.Minister,you are very wrong insisting where a seller of train ticket making more than 100%,is not breaking any law but making business.This is bizarre, because common reasoning will tell you that the tickets will surely be out of reach of the passenger while being hoarded by the staff to be sold only to their fronts who make profit for them.

    • George

      That is APC thinking formula and that is exactly what FASHOLA and disco is doing with meters.

      There is a man I heard of at Aluasa disco office installing prepaid meters for people for 100k now but officially they will tell you no meter and they have to sell to you if you need it urgently for 100k.

      • Oladeji Y

        This administration did not sell off the power company to the cash strapped Discos Mr Jonathan did. He sold them to his fraudulent friends who are supposed to invest their money and still gave them loans. So the relics of PDP fraud and incompetence still abound. If people decide to play along ,what is Fasola suppose to do?

        • Senator D

          *WHO DESTROYED NIGERIA, PDP, APC, … OR PEOPLE?”*

          So, the narrative in recent times especially from those who support the present regime, is that “PDP destroyed” our country and it will take time to rebuild it. Read below and be the Judge–

          1. *Sen. Pres. Bukola Saraki. PDP Governor for 8yrs and PDP Senator for over 3 yrs.* Joined APC in 2014. He is the Senate President.

          2. *Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Two-term PDP House of Rep member.* Joined APC in 2014 and was elected for a third time in 2015. He is the Speaker.

          3. *VP Atiku Abubakar. Nigeria’s PDP Vice-President for 8yrs* and presently an APC Elderstatesman after jumping from one party to the other since 2007.

          4. *Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba. PDP Senator for 12yrs.* Decamped to APC about two months ago. He is the serving Chairman, NDDC Board.

          5. *Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri. Two-term PDP Senator from Bayelsa State.* Decamped to APC after the 2015 elections. He is a serving Minister of the Republic.

          6. *Sen. Ita Enang. Two-term PDP Senator from Akwa-Ibom.* Joined APC before the 2015 elections. Presently the SSA to the President on NASS.

          7. *Gov. Samuel Ortom. Long-serving Benue State Secretary of the PDP. Former National Auditor of the PDP and former Minister under Pres. Jonathan.* Joined APC in December 2014. He is the Governor of Benue State.

          8. *Sen. Barnabas Gemade. Founding father of the PDP, former National Chairman of the party and Senator from 2011.* Joined APC in December 2014. He is a serving Senator.

          9. *Gov. Atiku Bagudu. A two-term PDP Senator from Kebbi.* Joined the APC at some point. He is the serving Governor of Kebbi State.

          10. *Gov. Aminu Tambuwal. Former PDP Speaker of the House of Representatives.* Joined APC in 2014. He is the serving Governor of Sokoto State.

          11. *Sen. Abdullahi Adamu. Two-term PDP Governor of Nasarawa and Senator in 2011.* Joined APC in 2014. Still a serving Senator.

          12. *Sen. Danjuma Goje. Two-term PDP Governor of Gombe State and Senator in 2011.* Joined APC in 2014. Still a serving Senator.

          13. *Hon. Dakuku Peterside. Was a PDP Rep member from Rivers State.* Joined APC along with Gov. Amaechi. He is the DG of NIMASA.

          14. *Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso. Two-term PDP Governor of Kano State and former Minister of Defence under Pres. Obasanjo.* Joined APC in late 2013. He is a serving Senator.

          15. *Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. Former PDP Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. Two-term PDP Governor of Rivers.* Joined APC in late 2013. He is a serving Minister of the Republic.

          16. *Gov. Rochas Okorocha. Was a Special Adviser to PDP’s Pres. Obasanjo. Became the Governor of Imo on APGA’s platform.* Joined APC in February 2013. He is the Governor of Imo State.

          17. *Sen. George Akume. Two-term PDP Governor of Benue State and Senator in 2007.* Left the party in December 2010. Still a serving APC Senator.

          18. *Gov. Nasir El-Rufai. Former FCT Minister under Pres. Obasanjo.* Left the PDP in 2010 and joined CPC. He is the serving APC Governor of Kaduna State.

          19. *Gov. Bello Masari. PDP Speaker of the House of Reps in 2003.* Joined the CPC in 2010. He is the serving APC Governor of Katsina State.

          20. *Sen. Adamu Aliero. Two-term PDP Governor of Kebbi State and Senator in 2007. Later became FCT Minister under Pres. Yar’Adua.* Joined APC at some point. He is a serving Senator.

          21. *Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma. Two-term PDP Senator from Akwa-Ibom State.* I don’t even know if he ever decamped to APC. He is the serving Minister of Budget & National Planning.

          Now, *save for Atiku who is a serial Presidential aspirant waiting for another election year to continue with his impossible dream of becoming Nigeria’s President,* all the above are holding offices in this regime. *They all played a part in the 16yrs of “PDP destruction”* but somehow are members of the APC that want to “rebuild”. Wow!

          My submission therefore is that *PDP did NOT destroy Nigeria. PDP is just a name/acronym.* The Nigerian people destroyed Nigeria.

        • Patrick Otobo

          And Ameachi sold Rivers state gas turbine assets to his fraudulent friends to sponsor APC presidential campaign!!! You conveniently forgot to mention this.

  • GbemigaO

    “God knows I do not like money!” God saves us

  • George

    Give it ten more years food prices will reduce said Ameachi.

    Nigerians pls start calculating the number of years from today.

    Ameachi doesn’t like money but built hotels everywhere in Ghana wonderful and because GEJ didn’t join him during his madness so he isn’t corrupt.

    3Billion paid for building a hospital till date nothing to show for it isn’t corruption.

    Losing 52Million Naira monthly for single trail lane from Abuja to Kaduna is not mismanagement and mismanagement isn’t corruption.

    APC SHAMEFUL,

  • George

    Premium Times has returned to their usual wicked way of attacking Jonathan daily since the supreme court made their final verdict. This was PT usual way before 2015 elections and it has started again but this time they will fail except Nigerians want to continue in their hungers.

  • yusuf Mikail

    Jonathan didn’t accuse you of corruption because it is not his job to do so and he is not given to APC’s flippancy. Does not mean you are or not corrupt.

    • jamajake

      You missed the point,Jonathan and co was busy looting oil money

  • Oladeji Y

    One can see clarity of thoughts on various issues and what is been done to solve the problems.

  • chiemex

    Yusuf Mikail says: The Scammers claimed they imported subsidized petroleum products and when GEJ tried to stop the entire subsidy scam, he was denied the opportunity. We did not cooperate with him.

  • Tijani

    Goodluck Jonathan was too dumb to know where to look. Buhari-Osinbajo’s EFCC do not want to look. Bell Helicopters, Nursery Schools, Imaginary Monorail SCAMS are just the tip of the iceberg of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi’s corrupt criminality. Lootimi Amaechi.

    • It’s time Nigerians stop this pull-him-down-syndrome. Amaechi is still one of the few exceptions to the loot-all-syndrome afflicting Nigeria political office holders. Bit your bottom lip and give him some credit.

  • emmanuel

    Slimy rotten thief. A man that stole his states reserve (River states Reserve saved over the years) in just three days and gave it out to buy a useless Minister of Transport role is a big f*ol.
    Ask those he shared the money to if he is worth anything with them.
    An id*ot who could not complete a monorail in Portharcourt when he had so much money and time at his disposal, is talking about putting up a rail line from Calabar to Lagos.
    I blames Jonathan

  • Patrick Otobo

    What a silly way by Ameachi to defend he US$39 million dollars hospital scam. You paid a whooping US$39 million without carrying out due diligence to know whether the person has the financial capacity to deliver !!! That is preposterous. This is corruption of the soul and mind which is a foundation for financial corruption. Rivers people can never be deceived.

    The truth of the matter is that Ameachi went behind to share the US$39 with the contractor leaving the Rivers people poorer!

  • g_kazaure

    Somebody who could not complete a monorail project was made transport minister. Buhari needs to dissolve his cabinet with immediate effect.