OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocol and Agreements, has directed the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi to reappear before it on the 17th August, 2020 in order to provide clarification on the $500million loan intended to be sourced from the Export-Import Bank of China for railways in the country.
The Committee has also summoned Ali Pantani and Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Ministers of Communication; and Finance, Budget and National Planning, respectively to appear before it to respond to certain clauses in the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and China which allegedly infringes on Nigeria’s sovereignty. This particularly relates to a $400 million loan for the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project signed in 2018.
The ministers are also expected to provide details of agreement signed between the Ministry of Transport and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd (CCECC) in respect of some railway projects in the country.
The projects are the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kaduna and Kaduna-Kano railways lines.
Recall that Amaechi on Tuesday appeared before the Committee alongside the Director General (DG) of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha and the Director of Legal, Ministry of Finance, Mr. Gabriel Christopher and were grilled on the status of the $849 million China loan in terms of payment.
Chairman of the committee, Mr. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, had during the meeting raised alarm that “Article 8(1) of the agreement states that the borrower hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding pursuant to Article 8(5), thereof with the enforcement of any arbitral award pursuant thereto, except for the military assets and diplomatic assets.”
He said further: “I have also seen from the Ministry of Communications where Nigeria signed off some certain level of its sovereignty if part of the clauses are breached? So, when the National Assembly reacts in this manner, to question some level of agreements being entered into by any Ministry of this country with any other nation, we have every right to question that”.
Speaking earlier on the details of the of the loan, Director (Legal) of Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Gabriel Christopher explained that the concession interest rate was 2.5 percent.
One of the lawmakers who frowned at the development, said: “This committee is not and will not put an end to the projects ongoing. It should be on record. It is not the intention of this committee to stop any project that is ongoing. This committee represents the Nigerian people and the Nigerian people have questions, and we will ask those questions to get answers for them.
“This committee is not in any way antagonizing what the Nigerian Government is doing. The only thing we want to know is more facts about loans. For instance, Ministry of Finance told us they secured a loan of $500 million. The project in question, from your Director of Finance, is $849 million. We got $849 million from the Ministry of Transport and we got $500 million (from Ministry of Finance). There is a discrepancy.”
On his part, the Minister for Transportation, Mr. Ameachi said “the loan being sourced by the Ministry is a total of $500 million to complete the Lagos -Ibadan railway line, which he put at a total of $849 million, with $349 million as counterpart funding.”
He appealed to the Committee to give him till December when the loan sum would have been approved before they could probe of the loan that because China,which is giving the loan is sensitive and monitoring happenings in Nigeria.
Amaechi also argued that the constant investigations by the National Assembly might give the impression that a part of the government does not approve of the loan and the Chinese government may withdraw the loan.