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House of Reps says ministries signing off Nigeria’s sovereignty in Chinese loan agreements

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THE House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements has raised the alarm that Nigerian government ministries are signing off the country’s sovereignty in Chinese loan agreements.

The Committee stated this while Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation,  made a presentation on the $500 million Chinese loan for the Abuja-Kaduna railway and others.

Nicholas Ossai, the Chairman of the Committee, cited a part of the Galaxy Backbone $400 million loan to build and operate the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone as one of such agreements.

According to The Punch, the lawmaker read out part of the agreement: “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 added that such agreement has also been seen in a deal signed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy under Isa Ali Pantami, the Minister.

“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,” Ossai said.

He noted that the National Assembly has the rights to oversee such agreements entered into by Nigerian Ministries with other nations.

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“So, when the National Assembly reacts in this manner, to question some level of agreements being entered into by any ministries 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,” he said.

While responding however, Amaechi, countering Ossai said ministries could not be sending all international deals to the National Assembly for scrutiny before they are signed.

Consequently, the Committee summoned Pantami, , Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance and Patience Oniha, the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO).

Nigerian Government is currently facing a legal battle to overturn the judgement of a United Kingdom Court that awarded a $9 billion debt payment in the Process and Industrial Development deal (P&ID).

The ICIR had reported that the Federal Government could lose over $1.2 billion on a $237 loan if it rescinds the Pull Call Option Agreement (PCOA), a power agreement deal entered signed in 2015 with Azura.

The concerns on the debt profile of the country continue to grow when, Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President of Nigeria lamented the increasing debt profile saying “we’re robbing our children to pay four our greed’.

The former VP quoted figures presented in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning as the basis for his concerns.

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The figure shows that while Nigeria spent a total sum of ₦943.12 billion in debt servicing in the first quarter of 2020, the Federal Government’s retained revenue for the same period was only ₦950.56 billion.

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