Transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi must make the details of Nigeria’s Kano-Niger rail project public following a freedom of information (FOI) request demanding so.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved the sum of $1.9 billion for Nigeria to build a rail line from Kano to a border town in neighbouring Niger.
The rail line is expected to cover Kano, Dutse, Katsina and Maradi. Maradi, unlike the other areas, is in Niger Republic.
After Amaechi confirmed the areas the project would cover, the Presidency contradicted the minister and denied any plan to build a rail line into Niger.
Buhari’s spokeperson Garba Shehu said the Nigerian end of the project would stop at a border point.
Whatever the case may be, the details of the project must now be made public in the coming days after two Nigerian lawyers asked for the information via an FOI request.
Former 2nd Vice-President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Monday Ubani and Lagos lawyer John Nwokwu are behind the FOI request.
The FOI request is dated September 29, 2020 and addressed to the Minister of Transportation.
The Nigerian lawyers said they hoped Ameachi would respond to the FOI request in time.
Ubani said he would feel personally sad if the minister fails, refuses and or neglects to respond to the request.
In case that happens, the courts can order the public disclosure of the information.
Some of the information sought by the lawyers include the actual cost of the project, the contract papers and the firm handling it, the economic benefit of the project to Nigerians and where the project is provided for in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
They also want to know how the Buhari government will source money to fund the project.
Ubani and Nwokwu also requested to know the details of the deliberation and approval of such fund by the National Assembly.
The FOI letter signed by Joseph Igwe Esq, reads:
“Kindly provide the information to the best of your knowledge in the interest of transparency and openness which you have been at the vanguard.
“In a public statement credited to you, you did
disclose to the media the award of contract for the development of the proposed Kano to Maradi rail line in Niger Republic.
“Sir, you are hereby specifically requested to make available to our clients or grant them access to:
“The actual contract cost of the rail line cutting across Kano state in Nigeria through Maradi in Niger Republic and the termination of the
“The awarded contract document(s), name of the firm and procedure of the award of the contract to the preferred firm.
“Our clients shall pay the necessary fees for the information.
“Be notified that if you fail to provide the above information within the period stipulated by law we shall proceed against you in accordance with the provisions of the law.
“We have no doubt that you will accede to this request in the interest of the Nation you are serving meritoriously,” the letter concluded.