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Amaechi And Reps In Face Off Over $33b Chinese Loan

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download 11 Amaechi And Reps In Face Off Over $33b Chinese Loan

THERE was heated argument at the House of Representatives Hearing Room 028 yesterday between Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi and House Committee Chairman on Treaties, Particulars and Agreement Ossai Nicholas Ossai.
It was during the legislative hearing on the loans agreements signed by the ministry. At issue was an alleged $33 billion loan which Ossai said Nigeria had signed. But the minister denied any such agreement.
The drama unfolded before Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola and the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Muhammed Bello.
Amaechi, who had warned the committee against scrutinising the Chinese loans, repeated his position that Nigeria might lose the opportunity of a loan to fund the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail line and the people of Southsouth will be denied that project because “of the committee you set up to investigate the Chinese loans.”
Ossai (PDP Delta), frowned at the “misconception and misgivings” on the legislative scrutiny of various agreements signed by government officials.
He said: ”We have heard some people ask why we are focusing on only Chinese-related loans and commercial contracts. We will like Nigerians to know that we aren’t focusing on only Chinese loans. From what we know, Nigeria has over 500 bilateral loan and commercial contracts agreements and investments treaties with different countries and institutions.
”There is no way the committee will do a thorough job without segmenting the issues based on countries, institutions, or MDAs. Thus, it must be clearly noted that this is not targeted at only China, neither was it designed to impede the development of the railway sector and other infrastructures.
“But rather to ensure full disclosure, transparency, accountability, utmost good faith, and value for money in both the bilateral loans and commercial contracts agreements entered into by the Nigerian government.
“The loan agreements we have seen so far, show that government officials charged with the responsibility of representing Nigeria were more desperate to just take the loans at any condition, possibly using non-negotiated loan agreements templates rather than go through the rigour of diligent technical review of negotiating specific clauses with clarity and for national interest.
”For instance, it’s a common practice that most international loan agreements would adopt ‘Sovereign guarantee’ and a neutral international arbitration centre as opposed to waiving of our national sovereignty in an omnibus manner; especially in dealing with countries like China, known to possess an absolute state status on their institutions and corporations.
“However, the immunity clauses in most of these agreements before us are not only ambiguous but very obscure. And without recourse to the fact that Nigerian government had issued circular on the subject matter with reference number SGF/OP/S.3/X/ 1737 dated 11th August, 2014 that provided guideline on issues of waiver of sovereign immunity clause during loan and commercial agreements negotiations.
”We expected government officials negotiating and signing these loans to fully comply with this guideline and also ensure that the clauses are couched to clearly reflect same”.
Questioning the rationale behind accepting Hong Kong as arbitration centre for the Chinese loans secured by Nigeria, he said “arbitration centres for bilateral loan agreements are known to be generally on neutral grounds unlike what we have in most of the Nigeria/China agreements where Hong Kong that is also governed by China laws was designated as the Arbitration Centre.
“From our experience, the MDAs sign these commercial agreements in billions of dollars, then go to the President and Federal Executive Council for approval to execute, including securing loan facilities through Ministry of Finance and Debt Management Office (DMO) and then proceed to negotiate the terms of these loans before coming back to Mr. President who then writes the National Assembly asking for approval for billions of dollars to do projects without attaching the negotiated loan and commercial contracts agreement details.
“This approach is the reason we have government representatives signing empty pages of loan agreements repayment schedule and other key documents required for the loan agreements to become effective. We have commercial contracts signed in US dollars, while the loan agreements for the execution of the same contracts were signed in Chinese YUAN currency in Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy/Galaxy Backbone Limited.
”We have noticed from documents available to us that commercial contracts signed by federal ministry of transportation alone is over $33 billion without any clearcut financing arrangements. Most of these commercial contracts agreements didn’t also have local content clauses and more witnessed by none properly designated and authorized officials.
”There are observable issues relating to procurement process, evidence of 15% advanced payments, payment of management fees, drawdown process and remittances and a whole lot of other matters, which we are strongly poised to ask questions on and hopes to get honest answers that will fine tune the current process, plan for possible renegotiation of some these agreements in order serve Nigerians better.
While dismissing the claim of an existing $33 billion contract signed by the Ministry, Amaechi demanded evidence of the contract from the Committee. He said: “Mr. Chairman, if you say that the the ministry has awarded a contract of $33 billion, we would want to see it because the only contract Ministry of Transportation has awarded so far is $1.6 billion for Lagos/Ibadan (rail project).
“The Implication of having a $33 billion contract is that be will have a large number of workers. There is no $33 billion contract in the Ministry of contract. What we have is the $1.6 billion contract awarded under President Buhari and $800 million contract awarded under President Goodluck Jonathan. By the time, the contract signed under President Jonathan had been completed, 80 per cent and so, we didn’t have to do anything about local content or no local content.
“The only one we had to deal with the issue of local content which is the only contract we have for now is the $1.6 billion contract awarded from Lagos to Ibadan of which the Chinese government is providing $1.2 and wed are providing the remaining $400 million. There are over 20,000 workers on that project with only 560 of them being Chinese. We need to begin to say truth to Nigerians.”
Amaechi told the committee that the Lagos/Calabar rail line will not be possible because the House is probing the loan which has not been secured for the project, adding that at the moment, there is no contract because there was no loan.
However, as the interaction began to degenerate into an altercation between the minister and the Chairman of the Committee, the Speaker walked in unannounced and asked that the hearing be adjourned for 10 minutes.
Ossai demanded comprehensive explanation from the Minister on the various loans taken by the government insisting that it was immaterial whether the loan was taken by the APC government or the PDP government, adding that what was important was that the interest of Nigeria and future generation of Nigerians was at stake.
The following discussion took place between the minister and the panel chairman:
Ossai: You submitted an addendum section 16 B (1) under the loan content obligation. Articule 61 (1) stated that the contractor hall develop and submit to the employer, Ministry of Transport for its approval a local content plan for training and engagement of Nigeria labour plan in all aspect of the contractor work. Can you provide the committee the certified copies of the labour plan, training carried out and the beneficiaries and evidence of the number of Nigerians working in all aspect of this project and their Chinese counterpart as provided in that document?
Amaechi: I will give a slight response to your speech and they my response. The slight response is to say that we tried to be more patriotic than we have been.
Committee member: Point of order Mr. Chairman.
Ossai: I have given him the right to speak.
Amaechi: No sir, I have a right to speak. You have invited me and I have a right to speak. I was once a member of a House. So, I have the right to talk.
Ossai: Can you speak to the questions I asked you now?
Amaechi: It is either you allow speak or I stop.
Ossai: I am in charge here and I will observe you when the need arises. The Minister is speaking and I will not observe any other member. Let the Minister finish his speech and I will give you room to talk.
Amaechi: So, Mr. Chairman, the contract awarded by this government is $1.2 billion contribution by the Chinese and the $400 million being contributed by Nigeria. You ask for document and I have said I will provide the details. You talk of training. Over 150 Nigerians are in China to be trained. Apart from that, they have built two training institutions. One in Idu and I will like the Chairman to come and visit. We are also building a university in Daura.
Ossai: Are you aware, Mr Minister of the $11.1 billion Nigeria Coastal Railway project that was signed on 1st of July 2016?
Amaechi: Has the loan been approved?
Ossai: I am asking you. Are you aware?
Amaechi: I am aware, but has the loan been approved?
Ossai: You made a lot of statements initially and you restricted yourself to one. The Commercial contract further stated that the contract further covenant that he shall give priority to the engagement of Nigerian commercial firm for the supply of goods and materials. Can you provide us with records of Nigerians commercial firms currently being engaged and providing services under this contract.
Amaechi: it is important to tell you that the contract was signed as a credit to a loan and we have not gotten the loan because of you and the committee you set up against the China group. That contract is from Lagos to Calabar which covers the whole of the south south. We may not get that loan and so, there is no contract.
Ossai: I am talking about the contract…
Amaechi: Which contract? Do you want to see the south south contract? If you want to, say so. Because you are from the south south. Because of the committee you have set up, we will loss that loan for the project from Lagos to calabar.
Ossai: This issue is not about South south, but about Nigeria and I am serving Nigeria as a legislator. For us to continue to serve our geopolitical zones, this country will not be nice. If zone A get their share, next year, another zone…
Amaechi: I am coming, have you now approached me on south south rail?
Ossai: I have not
Amaechi: You have. Mr Chairman, you have approached me.
Ossai: That is ok. We will degenerate the issue to south south or any other south.

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Pressure Mounts On Tinubu To Back Osinbajo For 2023 Presidency

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images 2020 09 28T100150.442 Pressure Mounts On Tinubu To Back Osinbajo For 2023 Presidency

* APC Stakeholders Say Age, Religion, Experience Favours VP As Buhari’s Successor
Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, some powerbrokers in the ruling All Progressives Con­gress (APC) are already mounting pressure on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the party, to bury his rumoured presidential ambition in 2023 and queue behind Vice Pres­ident Yemi Osinbajo.
Even though Tinubu is yet to declare whether he will run in 2023 or not, a lot of his supporters believe he is very much interested in the race and his silence is borne out of his desire not to distract the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is yet to mark two years of his second term in office.
However, some of his supporters have been launching several groups, both at home and in the diaspora, to rally support for his ambition, saying it is non-negotiable.
Also, some prominent Nigerians have also been canvassing support for Tinubu’s presidential ambition, saying he is the best man to succeed President Buhari in 2023. They include Baba­chir Lawal, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, Chief Henry Ajomale and several others.
The prominent lead­ers of APC have resolved to zone the position of national chairman to the North while the presidency will be zoned to the South, with many of them agreeing in principle that it will be unfair for the North to retain the position after President Buhari must have completed his eight years.
It was also learnt that many of the party leaders, especially in the Northern bloc of the country, are favourably disposed to Osinbajo taking over from Buhari based on his loyalty, commitment and deep knowledge of the pro­grammes of the government, especially relating to the management of the economy.
According to a credible source in the party, “There is no doubt Asiwaju is interested in the 2023 presidential race. He has every right to do so and he is very qualified based on his record as a former senator, governor of Lagos for eight years and what he has been able to achieve nationally even after leaving office.
“But for many of us, we believe that if the presidency is zoned to the South and later micro-zoned to the South- West, the current vice president should be allowed to take over from the president. We have adduced so many reasons for this”.
“The first is that he has been tested before and he has proven that he has the expertise to manage the affairs of a diverse nation like Nigeria. We are all witnesses to what happened in 2017 when President Buhari was ill and the vice president presided over the affairs of the nation in acting capacity.
“That was a period when Nigeria was almost at the precipice with many groups in the country, especially the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), seeking self-determination. He was able to manage the situation very well to the admiration of the whole country and even the president commended him upon his return to the country.
“There are also other factors we are putting into consideration. Three of these factors are age, religion and his unblemished public record. The vice president is 63 now and will be 66 by 2023. He will be a blend between the younger and older generation and many youths already see him as one of their own.
“On the issue of religion, we all know the two major religions in this country are Islam and Christianity. It will be awkward if we allow another Muslim to take over from President Buhari in 2023. I doubt if that will be fair to our brothers in the Christian faith”.
“However, 2023 is still a long way from now and the president will not impose a successor. We the party leaders will also not do likewise. We can only appeal to the likes of Asiwaju and present these facts before him.
“One thing is certain, the APC presidential ticket will not be handed over to anyone on a platter of gold. At the end of the day, everyone will be asked to go to the field and test their strength. Whoever wins the party’s ticket, then good luck to him”, he said.
Speaking with our correspondent, a senior lawyer from the South-South, who is also a member of the APC, said he personally advised Tinubu to maintain his respect as national leader of the APC and support one of the boys he has mentored politically, especially Osinbajo whom he (Tinubu) nominated as running mate to Buhari in December 2014.
“We used to be very close and I have offered him advice in time past. I once advised him to remain as the party’s national leader and nominate one of his boys as president. A lot of people said Buhari has relegated him but I believe Osinbajo as a man of God and gentleman won’t do that. I said he will even have more influence in the government compared to what is happening now. But I believe he wasn’t receptive to the idea and we have not been talking again,” he said.

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‘Oshiomhole’s Character Responsible For His Political Downfall’ – Junaid Mohammed

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Oshiomhole New 1 'Oshiomhole’s Character Responsible For His Political Downfall' - Junaid Mohammed

Junaid Mohammed, elder statesman and Second Republic House of Representatives member on Sunday said Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)’s intemperate character is largely responsible for his political downfall both in the APC and Edo state.
Junaid who spoke in an interview with Daily Independent, said Oshiomhole should accept full responsibility for the defeat of the APC in the Edo governorship election as well as Zamfara and Rivers.
While condemning politics of godfatherism in Nigeria, Junaid said it is insulting for Oshiomhole to appear in a video saying he wasn’t politically down after APC’s loss while should have taken a sober introspection into what led to the party’s defeat to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
“I am not that close to Oshiomhole but I have observed him at close range and I have told those people who are either his friends or those who have been with him in the trade union movement and in the political party that, with his attitude towards politics and his intemperate character, the way he believes that he must have his way otherwise, he is prepared to set the whole building on fire, it will be very difficult for him to make headway in politics especially in this country”.
“No matter how much of a thug he thinks he is, there are people who are worse than him in thuggery”.
“Secondly, a leader is made and unmade by his character. Clearly, from what I have read and heard people say, Oshiomhole’s character is not conducive to winning and managing a national office whether in politics, business or even in trade union movement”.
“I know two people; one was Oshiomhole’s personal friend in the trade union movement. Another one was his deputy when he first became President of the NLC. They are hardly on speaking terms today. That says a lot about his immaturity and overrating himself that whatever he says must come to pass”.
“There is a question I have always asked people who are close to Oshiomhole. What has he got to offer politically? I want to be told what has he done in his life that is so spectacular that makes him consider himself indispensable”.
“What has happened is that APC has completely lost the South-South and Oshiomhole bears major responsibility for that. In addition, he is directly responsible for the loss of Rivers and Zamfara”.
“He is so full of himself and that was why after the party’s loss in Edo, he made a video saying people thought he was down but he is not”.

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Wike, Amaechi exchange words at Supreme Court justice’s burial

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images 2020 09 28T073438.000 Wike, Amaechi exchange words at Supreme Court justice’s burial

Rivers State Governor , Nyesom Wike, and his predecessor , Rotimi Amaechi , on Saturday engaged in a verbal fight at the burial of a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Adolphus Karibi – Whyte , in the Abonnema, Akuku – Toru Local Government Area of the state .
Amaechi, who is the Minister of Transportation , while speaking at the funeral service , lamented what he term the rising insecurity and political intimidation in the state , saying the state was back to the time of Ateke Tom, a former militant leader , who is now the traditional head of Okochiri town in Okrika LGA of the state .
“ You have lost your voice . The sage ( the late justice ) has gone under and nobody is speaking. When I was governor , I gave people voices , but they have blocked those voices .
“ Everyone is scared . We are going back to when Ateke held sway . We are going back to the period where we run away from our people . We are back to a period when nobody could speak . But from next year , I will begin to speak , if nobody wants to speak .
“ We are all here because we need to bury a man God has blessed . I have stopped travelling because of bad weather , but I told myself I must be here because of Justice Whyte .
“ If you knew Justice ( Karibi – Whyte ) very well , you will know I was close to him . I was one of the few people he mentored , ” Amaechi stated .
Wike on his part described the late Karibi -Whyte as an epitome of unshakable integrity, civility and dignity , but noted that comments credited to Amaechi were embarrassing .
Responding to Amaechi , Wike who was represented by his Chief of Staff , Chief Emeka Woke , said the minister had lost touch with developments in the state , adding that since the launching of
Operation Sting by his administration , the security situation had improved greatly .

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