The Federal House of Representatives has reiterated it would review all loan agreements and conditions signed by the Federal Government in recent years.
The resolution was declared by the Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Aid, Loans and Debt Management, Mr Chris Azubogu, during with PUNCH in Abuja.
The resolution just as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry alongside the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria supported the investigation by the lawmakers into Chinese loans.
Recall that the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements had on Tuesday last week initiated an investigation into the loans taken by the country, where the committee raised an alarm over loan agreements signed between Nigeria and China.
The lawmakers revealed clauses in the agreement that could 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, stating that the probe would send a wrong signal to China, which could stop the loans, thereby thwarting the nation’s rail projects.
The Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Aid, Loans and Debt Management, Mr Chris Azubogu, in the interview with The PUNCH, 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 on condition of anonymity, 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.
“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?”
Reacting to the plea by Amaechi to stop the probe, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, told The PUNCH, that;
“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 further advised the members of the National Assembly should present a strong reason for embarking on such an investigation.
On his part, the acting Director-General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Ambrose Oruche, wondered how a probe into the terms and conditions of Chinese loans would delay or affect the execution of the railway project.
He said, “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.”