House of Representatives has said it would review all loan agreements and conditions signed by the Federal Government.
The Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Aid, Loans and Debt Management, Mr Chris Azubogu, made this known during an interview with Punch in Abuja on Sunday.
This comes as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) as well as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) have also supported the investigation by the lawmakers into Chinese loans.
The House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements had on Tuesday last week begun an investigation into the loans taken by the country after the committee raised an alarm over a clause in a loan agreements with China.
The lawmakers said the agreement might force Nigeria to concede its sovereignty to the Asian country if the loans were not paid back.
However, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who appeared before the committee, asked the lawmakers to stop the investigation into the Chinese loans.
He explained that the probe would send a wrong signal to China, which could stop the loans, thereby thwarting the nation’s rail projects.
Reacting to the minister’s call, Azubogu, said;
The House generally is concerned. We are reviewing all the terms and conditions to know what they are like. The House is reviewing all loans and agreements.
Also, a member of the Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, who spoke to the publication anonymously stated that the lawmakers would not back down on the probe.
The lawmaker asked;
Do you agree that more money (loans) should be taken when the former (previous) ones that had been taken have not been accounted for? You want transparency and you are taking loans, and we are saying ‘give us transparency.’
If you are taking a loan for a particular project, can the project pay back the loan? We are in a capitalist economy and in that economy, we should be able to know that if we invest the money, the project should be able to pay back the loan invested. That is what informed the loans we are looking at.
The source added;
Then, what are the stringent conditions attached to the loans? If we are not able to pay back the loans, what will be the consequences? These are key legal issues. We are looking at the entire template holistically. If you are taking loans, did you abide by the Nigerian content laws which say that our instruments should be considered first before considering importation?
Commenting on the call by Amaechi to stop the probe, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf expressed that seeking clarifications on government finances by the National Assembly was not wrong, adding that the Chinese loans should not be an exemption.
There is nothing wrong in seeking information or clarifications about government finances, whether it has to do with domestic or foreign loans or any aspect of government business for that matter.
It is perhaps a misnomer to call it a probe. I feel it is a process to give some insights and education on the loan processes. But there must be a strong reason for embarking on the exercise in the first place.
Yusuf, however, said the members of the National Assembly should present a strong reason for embarking on such an investigation.
On his part, the acting Director-General of MAN, Ambrose Oruche, wondered how a probe into the terms and conditions of Chinese loans would delay or affect the execution of the railway project.
Loan approval is being done by the National Assembly and I expect that anyone that is going to apply for a loan should be open to them; to show them every information they need. I don’t know why the minister is saying that the Chinese government will not give us a loan again. That shows that there may be something hidden that one cannot say or see.
Members of House of Reps has instructed Amaechi to return to the committee on August 17 with other ministers to give details of the contract agreements.
The House also summoned the Minister of Communication, Ali Isa Pantami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; and Director General of the Debt Management Office, Ms Patience Oniha.
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