By Adelola Amihere
The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi has clarified that that the Nigerian government is capable of repaying the loans collected for rail infrastructure in 20 years while stating that the controversial clause in the loan contract does not in any way culminate into losing her sovereignty to China
Recall that the House Committee on Treaties Protocol and Agreements 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.
Appearing in a live television programme on Friday, the Minister said China was the only country given out loans with a low interest rate of 2.8 percent as no country in the world would give out a loan without a guarantee to pay back such loans.
“The trade agreement between Nigeria and China: The first thing is that the Ministry of Transportation doesn’t take loan. Everything about loan is directed to the Ministry of Finance, so I couldn’t have signed any loan because I don’t take loan. What I signed is what is called commercial contract, which is contract between the Federal Government and CCECC as a contractor, the contract between Nigeria and China is usually signed by the Ministry of Finance.
“Whether is the Ministry of Finance that signed it or the Ministry of Transportation, the issue is that nobody will give you loan free of charge, there must be an agreement and such agreement must contain some terms, that doesn’t mean that you are signing away the sovereignty of the country, no country will sign out its sovereignty.
“What clause 8 does is to say to you, I expect you to pay according to those terms we have agreed, if you don’t pay, don’t throw your immunity on me when I come to collect back the guarantee that was put forward, that is all.
“We are paying the loans. In the same National Assembly sitting, they were told that the 500 million dollars loan, we have paid 96 million dollars already, Nigeria is already paying and the 500 million dollars was not taking by us, it was taken by President Goodluck Jonathan in his term and that clause was there.
“Nigeria has the capacity to pay back for the period of 20 years at 2.8 percent, which country will give you that loan? secondly , these loans are not giving to us, they are paid directly to the contractors, once they sign that the job has been done , they pay the contractors and that has never happened before and this project are in place, are they trying to rubbish the fact that there is a railway from Abuja-Kaduna?
“There is no loan in Nigeria either internal or external that is not approved by the National Assembly, none. Chinese government will not even give you a loan without an approval by the National Assembly because if they give you a loan without the approval from NASS that is no loan,” he explained.
Reacting to fears by Nigerians that the country is being sold out to China because of the loans, Amaechi said “when we stop collecting the loans, then we stop developing because there was no money by the time we came into government, by the time we came the money has been blown away”, he said.