By Henry Odeh
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday appealed to the National Assembly to halt its questioning of Nigeria’s loan agreement with China.
Mr Amaechi said questions from the National Assembly is likely to deter China from extending credit to the country, especially the $5.3bn required for the Ibadan-Kano railway.
He made the remarks during an inspection tour of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project which is being primarily financed by Chinese banks.
“They are not investigating corruption in construction,” Mr Amaechi said. “We want the National Assembly to allow us to get the loan for Ibadan to Kano, which is about $5.3bn.
“If you are telling the man who lent you money you don’t like the way he lent you, he won’t lend you any further.
“For this one (Lagos-Ibadan rail project), we have $1.6bn for which we are contributing about $200 and $300 million. But don’t forget, they have not finished paying, they can stop at any time.”
The House of Representatives had raised an alarm about the nature of loans received from China which, it said, puts the country’s sovereignty into question in the case of a re-payment default.
However, Mr Amaechi has insisted the loans, which are primarily spent on capital projects built by Chinese companies, will benefit the country.
On his Saturday inspection tour, Amaechi was accompanied by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and top management of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
According to a Channels Television correspondent, the inspection started from the mega station in Ebute Metta to Apapa in Lagos and moved all the way to Ibadan, Oyo state.
The ministers inspected the construction of all boarding stations and yards along the route.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi speaks to a Chinese construction official during an inspection tour of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project on August 15, 2020.
Mr Amaechi expressed satisfaction at the pace of work, despite the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he did not specify when the project will be completed. “Let’s hope by January, this thing will be ready,” he said.
Mr. Amaechi said the Ibadan-Kano rail project is being delayed by the expected approval by the national assembly to acquire a loan for its execution.
On his part, the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, said monies borrowed from China are being utilised judiciously for capital projects.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of the NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, said skeletal operations are likely to commence from Yaba to Ibadan in September.