Former governorship candidate seeks support for Amaechi on developmental projects

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Agency Reporter

A former governorship candidate of the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) in Cross River State, Mr Goddie Akpama, has dismissed calls for the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, to step aside over clauses in Article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China.

A group had made the call saying the agreement concedes sovereignty of Nigeria to China in the $400m loan for the Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project signed in 2018.

Akpama, also a former chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) in the state, said the indignation against the Minister was unnecessary and misplaced.

“For the avoidance of doubt besides the fact that  Amaechi is one of the best performing ministers in the present cabinet, and evidence of his achievement abound especially in the area of rail transportation, which is critical to the development of any nation. So calling for him to step aside seems quite misplaced,” Akpama said.

“From their statement it is obvious it comes from a position of bias and ignorance.  To begin with the message they are pushing that the sovereignty of the country has been compromised is inaccurate.

“To set the records straight, it should be noted that the Ministry of Transportation does not take loans, but this responsibility lies within the purview of the Ministry of Finance. The Transport Ministry only executes projects for which the loans are taken.

“But to face the issue head-on, it should be noted that there is no contract without an agreement and a loan is of course an agreement. There is no institution in the world that lends money without terms and conditions and in this particular situation one of the terms is giving the lenders sovereignty guarantee. This does not mean the sovereignty of the country has been signed away as is being touted in some quarters. This is to ensures Nigeria pays back the money being borrowed according to the terms and conditions, as would be expected in any loan agreement.

“A loan is a commercial agreement. It is a contract. There is no contract without terms and conditions. It is just like walking into a bank to get a loan for yourself. In as much as the bank would be willing to support you to achieve what you want with the money, they are also concerned that you pay back the money as at when due, so they don’t go bankrupt. That is why banks insist on collateral.

“What the sovereign waiver here means is that when fail to meet up your end of the bargain by failing to pay, the other party can come in and collect items that we have agreed upon that have been put aside as guarantee. It does not mean the sovereignty of the country has been conceded or the Chinese are coming to take over.

“The Minister himself has disclosed that payment for the loan is already underway as $96 million out of the sum has been paid so far. He made it clear Nigeria has the capacity to pay back. Like he pointed out what other country would give you such a loan at 2.8 per cent for 20 years with a seven year moratorium. The deal is a good one for the country and the Ministry of Finance is meeting the requirements.

“It should also be noted that this money is being paid directly to the contractor in China, so there is no need to fear for diversion of the money. The job is development related hence if they do not meet up their obligation of getting the job done according to the agreement, they also do not get paid.

“Indeed even the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday declared that it has no intentions of any interference in the country’s internal affairs and no political strings in their assistance. ‘China is committed to enhancing investment and financial cooperation with African countries based on their needs to help them improve infrastructure and extradite socio-economic development, by funding infrastructure and other areas that lag behind for short of money,  they  have helped the relevant countries break bottlenecks, enhance their capacity for independent development, realise social and economic sustainable development, and improve people’s livelihood. Such cooperation has delivered tangible benefits to African countries and peoples. In the process, China always gives full consideration to debt sustainability and seeks mutually-acceptable proposals through equal and friendly consultations. That is the fundamental reason behind the enormous popularity of China-Africa cooperation in Africa,’ the Chinese Government had said.

“There is no need to spin this into a political matter. We should ask ourselves if such loans collected to improve infrastructure that is there for all to see is not a good thing. We are witnesses in this country where in the past such huge loans have been collected without any accountability and disappeared into pockets of private individuals. In fact this is one of the reasons the country is in the level of debt it is today. For such loans to be collected today and be used to drive infrastructural development should be a welcome development. I believe everyone should be on board the development of the country instead of trying to stand in the way of evident progress and the achievements that are being recorded,” Akpama, a stakeholder of the All Progressives Congress in Cross River said.

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