The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has told the House of Representatives that ordinary Nigerians would be the biggest loser if several loan agreements with China were cancelled due to endless probes by the lower chamber.
Appearing before the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements on Monday, Amaechi insisted that the loan arrangement with Chinese cannot become a subject of endless probes, insisting that if continued, the request would likely be declined, which he said will be disastrous for the citizens.
The Minister emphasised: “If the loan is not taken to develop the country, the ordinary citizens who are the beneficiaries of infrastructural projects would lose greatly.
“Last week, I went to Lagos to inspect the railway project, the ordinary people were jubilating because the railway project will decongest the seaport as goods will leave the port the same day it came into the country.”
Amaechi’s position was at the backdrop of inquiries from the panel who insisted to know the status of loan agreements, particularly the funding of the railway lines.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Osai Nicholas Osai, drew his attention to certain clauses of the contract agreement where there was a revision by President Muhammadu Buhari on some projects.
Osai said: “Hon. Minister, in 2016, Mr. President and according to item B in the contract agreement.
“The Federal government revised the project on the directive of Mr. President and in view of the fact that prices of some of the materials have undergone serious decline as a result of the world’s economic downturn since the conclusion of the contract agreement in 2014.
“In item ‘D’ see page 3, the area covered by contract was then revised to only covered Lagos – Benin – Warri to Yenagoa to Port Harcourt and Port Harcourt to Calabar and Benin to Onitsha including River Niger bridge at the cost of $11. 9 billion.
“This over $11 billion contract was witnessed by one, Zakari of the Federal Ministry of Transport which is the Permanent Secretary.
“I like the Honourable Minister to inform this committee, whether he did get legal opinion from the legal department about this contractual agreement.
“How can $11 billion agreement be signed without a local content component because I know the Minister, you have been signing contracts without the local content.”
Reacting, Amaechi said: “We are just new and there are already existing contracts which have been existing. Why you see my signature is that we renegotiated for the sum of the contracts and bring it from $11.9 to $11.1 billion.
“This contract was signed before we came. It was signed during President Goodluck Jonathan administration. “
He further explained that the local content component has been captured, noting that items that Nigeria can be produced would be sourced locally, particularly cement, iron rod, windows and others.