As the controversy over Chinese loans to the Nigerian government rages, the country’s Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, says the Nigerian government has the capability to pay back loans collected for the construction of rail projects within the stipulated period of 20 years.Amaechi said in a statement in Abuja on Saturday that China was the only country giving out loans with a low interest rate of 2.8 percent.
He said no country in the world would give out a loan without a guarantee to pay back such loans.
“The trade agreement between Nigeria and China, the ministry of transportation does not take loan, everything about loan is directed to the Ministry of Finance, so, I couldn’t have signed any loan because I don’t take loan.
“What I signed is what is called commercial contract, which is contract between the Federal Government and CCECC as a contractor, the contract between Nigeria and China is usually signed by the ministry of finance.
“Whether it is the ministry of finance that signed it or the ministry of transportation, the issue is that nobody will give you loan free of charge.
“There must be an agreement and such agreement must contain some terms, that doesn’t mean that you are signing away the sovereignty of the country, no country will sign out its sovereignty.
“What clause 8 says is, I expect you to pay according to those terms we have agreed, if you don’t pay, don’t throw your immunity on me when I come to collect back the guarantee that was put forward, that is all.
“We are paying the loans. In the same National Assembly sitting, they were told that of the $500 million loan, we have paid $96 million already, Nigeria is already paying.
“And the $500 million was not taken by us, it was taken by President Goodluck Jonathan in his term and that clause was there.
“Nigeria has the capacity to pay back for the period of 20 years at 2.8 per cent, which country will give you that loan? Secondly, these loans are not given to us, they are paid directly to the contractors.
“Once they sign that the job has been done, they pay the contractors and that has never happened before and this project are in place. Are they trying to rubbish the fact that there is a railway from Abuja-Kaduna?
“There is no loan in Nigeria, either internal or external that is not approved by the National Assembly, none.
“Chinese government will not even give you a loan without an approval by the National Assembly because if they give you a loan without the approval from National Assembly that is no loan,” Amaechi explained.
The minister further said the government needed the loans to boost infrastructure in the country.
The minister, however, called on the National Assembly and Nigerians to appreciate government efforts in providing infrastructure in the country.
Amaechi noted that the Itakpe /Warri rail project in the South South geo-political zone, which was abandoned for 34 years by successive governments was fully rehabilitated by the present administration without seeking for loan.
The explanation followed the plan of the members of the National Assembly to investigate foreign loans obtained by the Nigerian government, especially loans from China.