Less than 24 hours since armed terrorists conducted the dastardly attack on the Kaduna-bound train, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is already talking money and demanding a fresh set of withdrawals.
With no comprehensive impact assessment or any coherent explanation, he announced the sum of 3 billion naira as the amount purportedly required to fix the damage the terrorists left behind. He said this while hurriedly visiting the scene of the incident with a handful of his image-makers.
No one can tell how Minister Amaechi arrived at this figure, barely 24 hours after the attack. Such an exercise would ordinarily involve a full-scale inspection and assessment of damage carried out by a combined team of experts.
This would be followed by a careful deliberation on possible repair methods where items to be fixed or replaced entirely would be drawn up, before a price check is conducted to arrive at the cost of the rehabilitation exercise to the country.
Minister Amaechi skipped all of these and just plucked a figure from thin air. There is indeed no situation a charlatan cannot milk for quick bucks, not even one that took the lives of his fellow citizens.
Equally concerning is Amaechi’s revelation during the visit that the loss of lives was due to the irresponsibility of his colleagues in the federal cabinet.
Branding himself ‘Mr. Sincerity’, he said his colleagues blocked his earlier attempt to avert an attack by blocking his proposals to purchase and install digital surveillance equipment.
“When you come with sincerity to government and your colleagues and people are stopping you, it is annoying,” he said without naming names. Nigerians must now invite Amaechi to state precisely the other Ministers who saw his presentation on how to avert avoidable deaths and turned a blind eye. It is a serious allegation that deserves a full-blown investigation that we must insist on.
Continuing his allegations against his colleagues, Rotimi Amaechi went on to say that in putting forward the proposal for the purchase, he merely sought ‘approval’ not ‘money’. This is not only a weird comment to make, but a clear attempt at misleading the public which implies that there is more to Mr. Amaechi’s proposal, just like his hurriedly invented 3 billion naira repair cost.
In practice, there is no meaningful difference between ‘financial approval’ and withdrawals, contrary to Amaechi’s obfuscation. To get the approval of FEC on a cost item is to have the legal basis to approach the treasury for funding or to secure a loan that the Federal Government of Nigeria would service.
For a man whose public service career has been racked with financial controversies and allegations of monumental corruption, some of which he has gone to court to halt investigations into, it is of great importance that his manufactured repair figures and accusation against his colleagues are taken seriously and promptly investigated.
The souls that perished in the unfortunate attack deserve justice. Their tragedy should not be exploited by an unscrupulous politician for quick profits.
Dr. Mustapha Jafaru (PhD) writes from Kaduna State.