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Borrowing: Give us option to China, Amaechi challenges National Assembly

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Wednesday said if the National Assembly was not comfortable with government’s borrowings from China, it should tell where huge infrastructure loans could be accessed.

He expressed worries about probes by the lawmakers on loans collected by Nigeria and stressed that such probes could stall the release of more funds to the country.

Amaechi also stated that the Federal Government would not provide hand sanitisers at train stations following the resumption of rail transportation activities at the Abuja-Kaduna line.

Amaechi said these at the Idu Train Station on Wednesday as passenger volume at the facility was very low when compared to what obtained before the shutdown of activities three months ago.

The minister said efforts were being made to repay the loans, particularly the ones from China, adding that the National Assembly’s investigations should not frustrate the construction of rail projects.

The House of Representatives had resolved on Tuesday to review loan facilities already taken by Nigeria from China and other countries.

The transportation minister had appeared before the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements on the $500m loan taken on the Abuja-Kaduna and other rail line projects.

Reacting to the probes, Amaechi said, “I have told the House of Representatives that first I just got to know that there is a clause in the agreement (with China).

“It is simple; for example, the loan to construct Ibadan to Kano rail is $5.3bn. The implication is that if by the end of the day, you don’t pay back our money, whatever we need to take from you, we will take from you.”

He added, “But what the Chinese normally do is that they go after the same asset to recover their money. So what is wrong with that?”

The minister said if the lawmakers felt that borrowing from China was wrong, they should tell the Federal Government where to get loans from for infrastructure development.

He said, “Secondly, I have told the National Assembly that there is nothing wrong with investigation.

“It is part of their responsibility, but for now they will jeopardise the ability of government to raise money if we continue to ask questions that will make China to raise eyebrow and start wondering what is wrong.”

He said Nigeria might lose the loans for the Port Harcourt-Aba, Umuahia-Enugu, Markurdi, Gombe, Jos, Damaturu and Maiduguri projects.

Amaechi said the country could also lose the money it seeks for the Ibadan to Kano rail project, which include Ilorin, Minna and Kano.

He added, “And then the loan for Lagos to Calabar being pursued with the Russians may also be lost, and the areas covered include Ore, Bennin to Asaba, Onitsha, Warri, Uyo, Calabar.”

The minister said the government had mapped out plans to repay the loans, as an escrow account had been opened to pay in the money.

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