Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, said the revelation about some “obnoxious clauses” in the $500 million loan agreements between the Federal Government and China has vindicated its stance that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has allegedly been mortgaging the sovereignty of the country for selfish reasons.
The PDP in a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan, said allegedly mortgaging the sovereignty of the country in a loan agreement was a violation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s oath of office to protect the interest of the country.
The opposition party said it was appalled by the arrogance of some government officials, who rather than show remorse over the matter were daring Nigerians and the National Assembly.
Consequently, it charged the National Assembly to review all foreign loan agreements entered into by the APC-led Federal Government and “take further urgent steps to retrieve our nation from the international auction.”
It stated that the demand of the Chinese lenders “underscores the loss of confidence by the international community in the Buhari administration, whose corruption has made it so untrustworthy that lenders now demand that we cede our sovereignty as condition.
Also reaction, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, said President Buhari and the APC owed Nigerians an apology for “taking the country through the throes of subjugation to another country” by the terms of the loans they have secured.
Atiku, in a statement by his media office, yesterday, recalled that two months ago, he called the attention of the country to the ‘reckless’ borrowing by the government and how the terms could compromise the future of the country.
However, he said the APC and the government had denied the allegations and discounted the call for caution only for a serving minister to confirm the fears of the country last week.
“Now, we all are aware that Nigeria’s sovereignty may have been traded for foreign loans and God forbids our inability to service those loans, the lender country would take ownership of choice infrastructure on the Nigerian soil. No negotiation could be weaker than that!
“Nigeria had a total foreign debt stock of $7.02 billion on May 29, 2015. Today, our foreign debt is $23 billion and rapidly rising. Debt, by itself, is not a bad thing. But debt budgeted for such unproductive ventures, like the proposed $500 million upgrade of the Nigerian Television Authority and other sundry bogus contracts, is debt that leads to death. To trade Nigeria’s sovereignty for this type of profligacy is the height of irresponsibility!”
Atiku, who was PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 polls, said though he “has long advocated for a more robust engagement of the private sector and promotion of foreign direct investment as sustainable alternatives through which government could fund infrastructure development,” the government “treaded the direction of looking for cheap foreign loans in exchange for the sovereignty for Nigeria.”
The former vice president recalled that “former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration initiated a National Privatisation Programme with the sole objective of ensuring that the private sector took some measure of influence in social investment portfolio and, in some instances, provided funding for infrastructure development.
“There was nothing in that plan that traded Nigeria’s sovereignty for some cheap loans which, in the light of unfolding revelations of sleaze in some departments of government, would have ended in private pockets.
“The government of the day and the APC must apologise to Nigerians and make an admittance of guilt for taking the country through the throes of subjugation to another country.”
Compel president to publish details since 2015, SERAP tells court
The Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking it to order President Buhari to publish details of loans that have been obtained since May 2015, the interest rate, the total amount of debts and details of the projects on which the were spent.
The suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 filed last week is seeking an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians, the countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes.
This development comes as the House of Representatives last Tuesday raised the alarm over clauses in Article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and Export-Import Bank of China which it says “wills the sovereignty of Nigeria” in the $400 million loan for the Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project, signed in 2018.
During an investigative hearing into some of the agreements signed between Nigeria and China, last Tuesday, the Chairman, House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, Ossai Nicholas Ossai questioned the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi over 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 5th September, 2018, Article 8(1) of the agreement, 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.”
Ossai summoned Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Usman; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Isa Pantami and Director-General of Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms Patience Oniha, to appear before the Committee on August 17 with all relevant documents on the controversial agreements.