Businessman-turned-politician Jimi Wanjigi has now revealed that he was the brains behind the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), going ahead to give insight into intrigues that went on behind the scenes of arguably the biggest Jubilee government project to date.
Wanjigi, who spoke in an exclusive interview on Sunday night, said he differed with the Jubilee government when initial agreements allegedly started being broken as the project progressed.
The business magnate said SGR was initially supposed to cost Ksh.55 billion, but the figure went to over Ksh.300 billion, causing massive friction between himself and the government.
He also revealed that the railway line was supposed to run from Mombasa to Malaba, but it later came to his attention that it was only going to run from Mombasa to Nairobi, and still at nearly six times the original set cost no less.
“SGR was a project birthed by me in 2008 with a company called China Road and Bridge. We birthed it, we spent a lot of money doing what you call feasibility studies and technical studies,” he said.
“What I recall of the project cost was something like Ksh.55 billion, from Mombasa all the way to Malaba. After 2013, it came to my attention that it was now not a project worth Ksh.55 billion between Mombasa and Malaba but Ksh.300-plus billion just from Mombasa to Nairobi. And I said this does not make sense to me. This is where we differed.”
According to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party presidential ticket contender, the intention of the SGR project at the conception stage was for it to be private, with government only leasing the land.
He claimed that money meant for the project was to be provided by the Chinese, not the Kenyan taxpayers; an agreement he further alleges that the government backtracked on.
“The intention when we began was that rail was going to be a private rail, nothing to do with government. In fact government was just supposed to provide the land which we were prepared to lease, it was like a real estate project,” he stated.
“At the time, Rift Valley rail had a concession of 22 years, and it wasn’t doing well. Cargo had reduced when it took over, from something like 24% to 4%, so we were saying let’s change the game.”
He added: “My intention and the intention of China Road and Bride was for it to be a public private partnership, but then it became a government project. The debt we have today for that railway is phenomenal.”
Wanjigi further revealed that he was also involved in the planning and construction of the Thika Superhighway, which he said he even helped the government raise money for.
“I was an agent of companies that participated in Thika Road, I even raised the money, because ADB funded about Ksh.22 billion, there was a shortfall of about Ksh.10 billion, which we managed to raise from China,” he revealed.
“In 2003, when the president was going to China, I had a lot of Chinese government friends, and one of the things they were offering as a gift to the Kenyan people through the new president was a stadium. I went and pleaded and said there are enough stadiums in Kenya and especially in Nairobi, at the time, what Kenyans need is an improvement of roads because our infrastructure under the previous administration had become very dilapidated. We managed to get a grant, a gift to the Kenyan people, of $150 million that did the road from the airport all the way to Gigiri.”