Despite a clause in a Chinese loan that ceded the sovereignty of Nigeria to China in the event of a loan default, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, is still pushing for the loan to be taken, warning that an ongoing National Assembly probe may frustrate the loan deal between Nigeria and China to finance the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project.
But the opposition Conference of United Political Parties (CUPP) has raised an alarm of a plot, with the connivance of government, to re-colonise Nigeria.
Amaechi believes the loan could be repaid from profits made for the train rides, adding that money from the loans were not being paid to the Federal Government.
“One good thing about the loan we are collecting is that they are not paid to us, they are paid directly to the contractors who execute those projects,” he disclosed.
The contractors are known to be Chinese companies, which are often accused of allegedly inflating the contracts.
Amaechi, who almost had a blow-out with lawmakers of the House of Representatives when he met them, proceeded to issue a statement in Abuja, disclosing that the Chinese government says it will back out of negotiations, if there were issues.
The Secretary of the Steering Committee of CUPP, Chief Peter Ameh, said in a statement: “Sadly, while the leaders and think tanks of other countries are busy developing strategies and policies to enable their citizens survive today and live for tomorrow, Nigerian leaders are deliberately driven to ensure that Nigerians who do not die today are shackled tomorrow by China through economic slave chains.
“Recently, the House Committee on Treaties Protocol and Agreements of our National Assembly raised a curious question on whether a certain clause affixed in a commercial loan agreement that was executed between the Federal Ministry of Finance (at the behest of Nigeria) and the Export Import Bank of China in 2018 does not pose a threat to our immunity, since the clause in the agreement has the potential of enslaving the economic, legal and political sovereignty of Nigeria if Nigeria defaults in her obligations owed to the Republic of China under that agreement.
“Article 8 (1) of the agreement states in part 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.”
“Interpreting the above clause bluntly, it is safe to say that some members of the present executive arm of government have ignorantly mortgaged Nigeria’s future and sovereignty, with an exception to military and diplomatic immunity.
“The excuse that Nigeria would only have to default before the powers of the said clause may become operational is immaterial, baseless and highly myopic. However, if we must entertain such an excuse, then I dare to ask, when has Nigeria ever repaid its debt without defaulting? Never! The records are there to speak for themselves. We default and fall into the merciful hands of lending countries or international communities who, at times, are magnanimous enough to cancel our debt.
“At this point, with the deadly clause of article 8 (1), it is only God that can save Nigeria’s total sovereignty from the impeding China, our future colonial master is waiting.”
In his statement Amaechi said: “The investigation being carried out by National Assembly may frustrate the loan agreement between us and China on the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project. So, if tomorrow we are unable to construct the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway because we didn’t get the loan, it is because of the investigation by the National Assembly.
“I told the National Assembly that they can investigate but they should allow us get the loan first.
“If they stop the work from Ibadan to Kano, it is because of the investigations, same with Lagos to Calabar railway. If you think there is corruption, investigate corruption. What we are saying is that we should conclude negotiation first because there is pressure affecting the Chinese government in which they are talking to us directly. So, for me, what is primary here should be national interest. We have the approval to construct the Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar rail lines; we are also at the point of negotiating for the loans. Summoning us to the National Assembly to come and address the loans would look like the government is no longer interested in the loan.”
Recall that Thisday newspaper on Wednesday reported that the House of Representatives on Wednesday raised the alarm over clauses in Article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and Export-Import Bank of China, which allegedly concedes sovereignty of Nigeria to China in the $400 million loan for the Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project, signed in 2018.
The newspaper in its online version reported further: “The controversial clause in the agreement signed by Federal Ministry of Finance (Borrower) on behalf of Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China (Lender) on September 5, 2018, provides 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.”
The House of Representatives has therefore summoned the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Communication, Ali Isa Pantani; and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.
The ministers are expected to provide answers on $500 million loan to be sourced from the Export-Import Bank of China for railway lines in the country.
Also, summoned alongside the ministers is the director general of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha.
They are also to provide details on the agreement signed between the federal ministry of transport and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in respect of some railway projects in the country.
The projects involved are the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kaduna and Kaduna-Kano railways lines.
Amaechi has however warned that the Chinese authorities may not sign the $5.3 billion Ibadan-Kano rail line loan if the lawmakers continue to investigate the agreement.
Chairman of the House committee on Treaties, Protocol and Agreements, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai issued the summons yesterday at the public hearing with MDAs on review of Nigeria’s bilateral loan agreement.
Ossai said they are expected to appear on August 17, unfailingly with details of the contracts concerned.
He said, ‘’The House would need details on the agreement between the federal ministry of transport and ZTE (Nig) Ltd in respect of the provision of community actions and signaling equipment for the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri line. Also, the ministers are to provide details of the agreement between federal ministry of transport and the China Railway Construction Company International (CRCCI) in respect of the Itakoe-Abuja line/ New Port in Warri project.’’
The Committee raised alarm over alleged waiver of Nigeria’s sovereignty in the government concessions agreement on Nigeria National Information and communication technology infrastructure backbone phase II project between the government of Nigeria, represented by the Federal Ministry of Finance(borrower) and the Export-Import Bank of China (lender) dated September 5, 2018.
The Committee cited Article 8(1) of the agreement, which 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”.
But in his presentation, Amaechi said the loan being sourced by his 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 explained that because China,which is giving the loan is sensitive and monitoring happenings in Nigeria, the House committee might wish to give him till end of December when all the loan would have been received.
Amaechi 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.
He appealed to the committee to consider national interest in carrying out their oversight function.
‘’My fear is that if this probe continues, at the end of the day, some sections of the country may suffer. In oversighting, there is what is called national interest. But in asking questions on these loans now, it may jeopardize these loans. The Lagos- Ibadan is not completed; the Ibadan- Kano is not completed.’’
“Let the government of China not say there is a disagreement in government on this loan and so we will not give this loan. So, I appeal to the chairman to give us from now till December, when we are likely to secure the loans. Then, from January, February, you can resume this investigation.’’
He added that the railway projects (Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan- Kano) are yet to be completed and these will be affected.
However, Amaechi’s plea was not taken as the Committee Chairman insisted that the minister should return to the committee on August 17 with other ministers to give details of the contract agreements.
Ossai said: ‘’We are looking for transparency, which is what the Chinese government wants. So, we will like to have the pre-payment plans for these loans. Most of these contracts signed by the government are not known by the National Assembly as provided for in the DMO Act; and we are supposed to know. We need to know how many Chinese are involved in these projects and their expertise. In the documents we have seen there are variations in interest rates. Why do you sign these documents at the same time with different interest rates.’’