Reps, Amaechi disagree on $33bn rail project loan

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The House Committee on treaties, protocols and agreements and the minister of transportation, yesterday took up the minister of transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi on the $33 billion loan allegedly obtained from China for the construction of rail project without any clear cut financing arrangements.

Chairman of the committee, Mr. Ossai Nicholas Ossai said at the resumed investigative hearing that it uncovered over $33 billion commercial contracts signed by successive governments through the federal ministry of transportation.

He claimed that most of the commercial contracts agreements lacked local content clauses describing as “unfortunate” that the deals were sealed by non-designated and un-authorised officials.

Responding rather angrily, the minister said there was no modicum of truth in the allegation that his ministry obtained $33 billion for the construction of railway projects.

He stated that his ministry had so far obtained $1.6 billion loan for the construction of the Lagos -Ibadan railway project.

Amaechi also faulted the notion that the local content laws were breached by his ministry.

He warned that the activities of the lawmakers would hinder the acquisition of the loans to finance the south-south rail projects, insisting that the only loan secured by the present government was the NI.6 billion for Lagos -Ibadan rail.

“Mr. Chairman, I have the right to speak, you invited me, I was once a member of the House. If you say ministry of transport has a contract of $33 billion, we want to see it because as the minister of transport, the only contract awarded so far is that of $1.6 billion for Lagos-Ibadan which is under threat.

“The implication of having a contract of $33 billion is that I will have a large number of workers. There’s no $33 billion contract in the Ministry of Transport. What we have is $1.6 billion contract awarded under President Muhammadu Buhari and $800 million contract awarded by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“By the time we came, the contract awarded by Jonathan, signed by Aganga, had been completed up to 80 per cent, so we didn’t have to do the meeting of local content. The only one that has to deal with the issue of local content is the $1.6 billion contract that was awarded for Lagos to Ibadan for which the Chinese government is providing $1.2 billion and we’re providing the remaining $400 million.

“There are over 20,000 workers, and only 560 of them are Chinese, we need to begin to say the truth. It’s good to tell Nigerians the truth, this is very political and we will show all the contracts awarded by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government.

“You asked about training; there are over 150 Nigerians in China being trained as engineers. We will provide the document to you. They have built two training institutions in Idu and Daura. We provided you with the list of total number of Chinese workers on the Lagos-Ibadan project,” he said.

He promised to provide relevant documents on sublet contracts on the rail project contract implemented by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration today.

Amaechi insisted that because of the investigative hearing, the country may lose the contract for Lagos – Calabar rail project with the Chinese government.

On the $11.1 billion railway project allegedly signed on July 1, 2016, Amaechi said the contract was signed as a prelude to a loan and Nigeria might not get the loan.

However, Ossai remind the minister that they were not quarreling but rather addressing issues of national importance.

When Ossai said he was not talking about south-south rail but Nigeria at large, Amaechi retorted: “You have approached me on south-south rail. Have you not? Until you get the loan, there will be no contract. And there will be no loan. Because of the committee you’ve set up, we will lose that contract from Lagos to Calabar,” he added.

Responding, Ossai said: This issue is not about south-south but Nigeria and I’m serving Nigeria as a legislator. If we continue to serve our geopolitical zone, this country will not be nice. It is okay, we will not degenerate this issue to south-south.

“The issue we are talking about today is the one that concerns Nigeria, our priority is to make sure that any area is viable and it will promote the economic activities of Nigeria and bring about multiplier effects,” he said.

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