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Lawmakers raise the alarm over Chinese loans

The House of Representatives has raised the alarm over loan agreements being entered into by the Federal Government with China.

According to the lawmakers, Nigeria will concede some of its sovereignty if the country defaults in the repayment plan.

The House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, which raised the alarm in Abuja on Tuesday, expressed its resolve to review loan facilities already taken by the country from China and other countries.

The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, who appeared before the committee on the $500m loan taken on the Abuja-Kaduna and other rail line projects, however, warned the lawmakers against sending a wrong signal to China.

He said this might lead to abandonment of ongoing projects if the Asian country calls off the agreement.

Chairman of the committee, Nicholas Ossai, faulted non-involvement of the National Assembly in loan negotiations by the Federal Government and its officials.

He cited the loan obtained for the Galaxy Backbone to build and operate the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone, a cross-country optical fibre backbone, from the China-Exim Bank in September, 2018 as an example of such loans.

The committee specifically 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.’

Ossai said, “I have also seen from the Ministry of Communications where Nigeria signed off some certain level of its sovereignty if part of the clauses is 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; because anything that is going to happen will happen to our generations unborn.”

Responding, Amaechi however disagreed with Ossai, saying the Federal Government could not be sending all its international deals to the lawmakers for scrutiny before they are signed.

Meanwhile, the committee asked Ameachi to reappear on August 17 along with more details on the loans and projects.

It also summoned the Minister of Communications, Dr Ali Isa Pantani; and Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, to explain the $500m loan and provide details on the agreement signed between the Federal Ministry of Transport and the CCECC.

The Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Ms. Patience Oniha, was also summoned.

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