BY Dyepkazah Shibayan
A house of representatives panel has raised the alarm over clauses conceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in a loan agreement.
The clause described as “lethal” by the panel is in article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement between Nigeria and Export-Import Bank of China.
The $400 million loan was obtained for Galaxy Backbone, federal government’s information and communication technology (ICT) agency, in 2018.
The loan agreement came to light at an investigative hearing conducted by the house committee on treaties and agreements chaired by Nicholas Ossai, a lawmaker from Delta state, when Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, appeared before the panel.
“The borrower (Nigeria) 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,” the clause as reported by Tribune read.
The chairman of the committee also said there are agreements signed by the ministry of communications and digital economy where the country’s sovereignty will be breached if it defaults in the agreements.
“When the national assembly reacts in this manner, to question some level of agreements being entered into by any ministry 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. Whether we get it from China or not is immaterial,” Ossai said.
“The most important thing is that we must save and protect our people as regards agreements, because most of the agreements that have been signed, the national assembly has no knowledge.
“Even the details embedded in those agreements are not forwarded to you when demanding counterpart funding.
“You don’t have the details, clause by clause, in line with the Act that established DMO. We need to know those details even before going to sign such agreements. But those details are not provided to the parliament.
“So, we have the right to question them.”
The house treaties committee summoned Isa Pantami, communications minister; Zainab Ahmed, finance minister, and Patience Oniha, director-general of the Debt Management Office (DMO), to appear before it on August 17.
Nigeria is currently taking legal steps to escape a $9 billion judgment debt awarded against the country by a UK court over the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) deal.