Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media & Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari was on Channels Television recently with Seun Okinbaloye , where he answered questions on the China trip of his principal.
Q: How was the China trip Mr Adesina and what are the benefits for Nigeria?
A:It was a splendid trip. Very successful. Once again, Nigeria can be proud of its leadership, can be proud of its President because wherever our President turns up, he has tremendous respect and by extension, the country.
Q: Nigerians will want to know what we were able to get from China. We understand the Presidency has come out to say it is not about loans and getting money from China, that it is going to be a mutually benefitting relationship.
A;Thank you. Like I always say when the President travels and comes back, it is not like going to the market and you come back home and they ask you, “how much did you sell today?” It is not usually in that perspective because investment takes time to yield. But this trip to China has been particularly productive because it is a continuation of what had been started by the previous administration. Like it is said, government is a continuum. Some of those things started by the Goodluck Jonathan administration have now been consummated through this trip. For instance, we know that China is so well endowed in the area of infrastructure while Nigeria today has plenty infrastructure deficits. So, we have a lot to gain in the area of power, in Agric, in housing, railway, transportation generally, and so many other areas. That is what was explored during this last trip. Like I said, some of them were started during the last administration. Yes, they signed some agreements, but Nigeria didn’t fulfill her parts of the bargain. The agreements were revisited and this time around you can be sure because we have an administration that that keeps promises, Nigeria will keep its parts of the bargain and China will also keep its part. So, in the area of power, housing, Agric, solid minerals, all the agreements that had been signed, we expect that both sides will keep faith, and very soon, in the shortest possible time, Nigeria will begin to see the effects, the positive sides of these agreements.
Q:When we talk about keeping our own sides of the bargain, it looks so much to me that we were not able, as a country, to keep our own side of the bargain at some point, but this time around will you tell us, what are these bargains that were revisited and what are the specifics?
A: Yes, there were some deals particularly on transportation, on power and all that. But there is counterpart funding, which Nigeria could have done, which the country didn’t do under the Jonathan administration. Now that the agreements had been signed again, you can be sure that the counterpart funding will be done.
Q; When you talk about this counterpart funding, we understand the controversy over the Lagos-Calabar rail, Lagos-Kano rail which generated a lot of issues. Is that project part of the counterpart funding and projects China is considering to partner with Nigeria?
A: That project has not been consummated yet from this trip. There are some projects that are still on in terms of signing of agreements. A technical committee has been put together to look at those agreements again, to finetune them and they will sign at a later date. So, that particular rail project is not among the deals that had been signed yet.
Q: We understand the Jonathan administration started Kaduna-Abuja rail, which will perhaps be launched. Which of the rail did Nigeria or President Buhari talk to China about and when will the project start?
A:The rail that an agreement was signed on during this trip was the $2.5 billion Lagos metro rail red line project. The Lagos-Calabar and the Abuja-Kaduna that you talked about are part of the ones referred to the technical committee which will look them again before agreements are signed. But I am sure that the transport ministry can give further detail about that.
Q:So you are saying for sure now that we are able to secure agreement with China on the Lagos light rail, that is what you are talking about?
A:Yes, 2.5 billion dollars; that has been signed
Q:When will that start?
A:Well, I don’t have all those nitty-gritty details, all I know is that the agreements have been signed but the finer details of the agreements like when it will start and when it will be delivered, I can’t readily say unless we look at the documents that were signed.
Q:Mr. Adesina, will you say that particular project is the biggest of the agreements?
A: Like you said in the intro, the country has projects and investments in excess of 6 billion dollars. That 2.5 billion project could not be the biggest. If I do a quick rundown, there is the 300 megawatts solar power project in Niger State, a granite mining plant, the infrastructure bank and the China Hydro Corporation are to spend 1 billion dollars on Abuja-Ibadan-Lagos expressway. And then in housing, there is this 250 million dollars deal to build 27 storey high-rise complexes in different parts of the country. And of course you have the free trade zone signed by the Ogun State government. There is the Guandon free trade zone which costs about 1 billion dollars. There are many projects and everything totaled about 6 bilion dollars.
Q: Not every Nigerian is happy with President Buhari’s frequent trips. The President has always told us that these trips are for the gains of the country. In all of these, the average man on the street, some of them who cannot actually watch us right now, their concerns are about the deliverables, what they will benefit that will put food on their table. In the immediate, what are the benefits that this trip will bring to an average Nigerian.
A: Like I said earlier,when you talk of investments, you won’t talk of immediate deliverables. There are always low hanging fruits that you can pluck immediately, but then, there are also the ones that are suspended on the tree which will take time to ripen and drop. Every country needs to be patient till the fruits ripen and drop for the benefit of everyone.
Q:This trip, one is afraid that it might be jeopardized considering the fact that one of the state governors had written to the Chinese government that they should not sign the agreement with Nigeria. Are you aware of that?
A:That is what I called ‘a day after the fair.’ When agreements had been signed, sealed and delivered, and then you begin to write that it should not be signed. That is locking the barn after the horse had bolted. Of curse, there is always comic relief in Nigeria and there is room for that in any country. I see that just as a comic relief, something to just laugh over and move on.
Q:A lot of people have talked about getting loans from China, how much loan are we getting?
A:I think it is a misnomer to talk about loans. Nigeria didn’t ask for loans. When we say we ask for loans, it gives the impression of an emergency loan. We do not seem to need emergency loans. The President has said it, the Finance Minister has said it, even the IMF Managing Director,Christine Largarde, said it when she visited, that Nigeria does not need an emergency loan. What we have got from China is not a loan, it is investment. You know that investment is like a package, you have so many things embedded in it. But loans in terms of seeking a lifeline, no.
Q:What is the earliest time the Chinese men and women will be staring this project?
A:Almost immediately, but you know that there is an issue of Nigeria paying its counterpart funding. It will be contingent on Nigeria paying its sides of the money involved. Once Nigeria pays, the projects roll off.
Q:How much is involved for Nigeria to pay, how much are we talking about?
A:It is not something I can say.it is usually a percentage, not something I can give offhand now.
Q:Is any of this package considered in the 2016 budget , the deals signed with China?
A:Sure, I am sure they have to be in the budget.You don’t begin to spend without having considered it in the budget.
Q:Talk to us about that document that has stayed in your Principal’s office about a week now. The President did not sign the budget before he left for China. Now that he is back ,will he be signing the budget on Monday morning?
A: The President will sign a budget that will do good to the maximum number of Nigerians. He will not rush to sign a document that may become not implementable .The President will sign a document that the executive agrees with. He will not just sign for the sake of signing. And he has said himself that he will scrutinize the budget; look at the provisions ministry by ministry. The Ministers will have to agree that what has been approved for them will do the work that they need to do…Unless that is achieved ,I can’t be presumptuous to tell you that the President will sign immediately . Don’t forget that the constitution gives the President an allowance of 30 days after the budget is sent back to him.
Q:Are you saying we may be waiting for another 30 days before the budget is signed. Nigerians are already impatient considering the economic woes…..?
A:I didn’t say that, except you want to impute meaning to what I said.
Q: Nigerians wants to see change..
A: That change will come. It is a process, and not magic. It will come. No doubt about it.