The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, raised alarm over lethal clauses in Article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and Export-Import Bank of China which allegedly “wills the sovereignty of Nigeria” in the $400 million loan for the Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project, signed in 2018.
According to the agreement signed by Federal Ministry of Finance (Borrower) on behalf of Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China (Lender) on September 5, 2018, Article 8(1) of the agreement, provides that: “The Borrower hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding pursuant to Article 8(5), thereof with the enforcement of any arbitral award pursuant thereto, except for the military assets and diplomatic assets.”
Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, the Chairman of the House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, noticed this during an investigative hearing into some of the agreements signed between Nigeria and China, where the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi responded to various questions on the ongoing modernization of railway projects being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Transport.
Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, however, warned the parliament to suspend the investigation until after the Chinese authorities have signed the $5.3 billion Ibadan-Kano rail line. According to him, China continues to monitor the development from Nigeria and might decide not to sign the agreement if the probe continues.
Hon. Ossai said: “I have also seen from the Ministry of Communications where Nigeria signed off some certain level of its sovereignty if part of the clauses is breached? So, when the National Assembly reacts in this manner, to question some level of agreements being entered into by any ministry of this country with any other nation, we have every right to question that because anything that is going to happen will happen to our generations unborn. Whether we get it from China or not is immaterial.”
He continued, “The most important thing is that we must save and protect our people as regard agreements, because most of the agreements that have been signed, the National Assembly has no knowledge (of them). Even the details embedded in those agreements are not forwarded to you when demanding counterpart funding.”
“You don’t have the details, clause by clause, in line with the Act that established DMO. We need to know those details even before going to sign such agreements. But those details are not provided to the parliament. So, we have the right to question them,” he added.
The Chairman then summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Usman; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Pantami and Director-General of Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha, to appear before the Committee on August 17, 2020, with all relevant documents on the controversial agreements.