BY Dyepkazah Shibayan
Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, says China will not approve Nigeria’s request for loans if the national assembly continues to probe the loan agreements the country has with lenders.
While appearing before the house of representatives committee on treaties and agreements on Tuesday, Amaechi asked the lawmakers to suspend their probe until Nigeria has secured the loan.
The minister said the federal government requested $500 million from the Chinese government to finance some rail projects across the country, particularly in the south-east.
The former Rivers governor said some sections of the country’s rail lines “will suffer” if China stops giving out loans to Nigeria.
“I have said here to the house, and it is a pity that I’m saying it in public, this government, outside Nigeria, they are sensitive to what you say. Nobody is stopping you from your investigation and no government from outside Nigeria can stop you from doing it,” he said.
“We are saying that Nigeria has applied for three loans already. For Port Harcourt-Maiduguri (eastern rail line), the minister of finance told me that she was stopped and told that the next borrowing plan would not be approved unless you get Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. Port Harcourt-Maiduguri goes through the south-east and the north-east.
“The only south-south town is Port Harcourt. We are about to apply for a loan. They will not grant that loan. Then you summoned us back to the House to ask why we are constructing Lagos-Kano and we are not constructing Port Harcourt-Maiduguri.
“Can we be allowed to get this loan? Then you can summon us, not to start what you are doing and the whole process will then be stopped.
“My fear is that at the end of the day, some sections of this country will suffer if they stop giving us loans; two projects that will suffer: the first one is Lagos-Ibadan (rail line), we have not finished disbursement.
“We are asking for a loan to commence work from Ibadan to Kano. The day they (China) say ‘the government is not supporting the loans you people are taking, we are no longer giving you,’ that is the end of the project.”
Amaechi asked the committee to consider “national interest” because urgent work needed to be executed on the eastern rail lines.
“The economy of this country can only be propelled by transportation. We don’t mind this investigation but can we please shift it to December or January when we would have possibly taken these loans,” the minister said.
“Once we get these loans, chairman, turn me upside down, I will answer you.There are rumblings up there in China and there are loans we have asked for.
“If your government is not in agreement with this – don’t forget that there are all sorts of allegations against China here and there – we can stop. The moment it is stopped, the following things will happen – Lagos-Ibadan is not completed.”
Earlier, Nicholas Ossai, chairman of the committee, said there are clauses conceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in some of the loan agreements.