Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocol and Agreement, yesterday, grilled Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, over railway contracts to be executed with the $500 million being sourced by the Federal Government from the Export-Import Bank of China.
The projects to be funded by the loan include the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kaduna and Kaduna-Kano railways lines.
The committee, which raised concerns about the implications of some of the loan agreements signed between Nigeria and other countries, quizzed Amaechi on the details of the $500 million Chinese loan.
However, the minister, in his response, explained that the loan being sourced from the Chinese government for projects in his ministry is $500million. He stated that the loan will be deployed towards the completion of the Lagos-Ibaday railway among others.
Nevertheless, Amaechi appealed to the lawmakers to give him till December this year, when all the loans would been received before he is called to answer questions on the the issue.
He explained that China is sensitive and monitoring events in Nigeria and that constant probe by the National Assembly might jeopardize the loan, as the Chinese government may have the impression that that the parliament is not in support of the loan. According to him, if this happens, “some parts of the country will suffer” as the Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kano railway project, which are yet to be completed will be affected.
“Let the government of China not say there us 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,” Amaechi stated. Regardless, the committee refused his pleas.
Chairman of the committee, Nicholas Ossai said the National Assembly must be carried along in agreement signed between Nigeria and other countries, before loans are accessed, so as not to compromise the sovereignty of the country.
He insisted that Amaechi should return to the committee on August 17 with details of the loan agreements, noting that “we are looking for transparency, which is what the Chinese government wants. So, we will like to have the pre-payment plans fro these loans.”
Also, the committee summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, her counterpart in communication ministry, Ali Isa Pantani to appear before it, alongside the Transport minister, on August 17 in respect to the Chinese loan and railway contracts. Also, summoned alongside the ministers is the director general of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha.