The Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) has described as unpatriotic and anti-people the reported call by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, for the stoppage of the probe of the loans taken by the Federal Government.
The House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements commenced an investigative hearing of loans taken by the Federal Government, in order to evaluate the bilateral agreement over the loan sought from China.
However, the Transportation Minister, at the investigative hearing, called for a stop of the probe as, according to him, the exercise, if not suspended, would scare away lenders and foreign partners.
He further said the implication is that the investigation could scare foreign partners, future investors and jeopardise the already negotiated loan agreement between Nigeria and China.
This, according to Amaechi could lead to the loan facility withdrawal and will have negative impact on Nigeria’s infrastructural development drive such as the loan facility the Federal Government is seeking to complete the Lagos-Ibadan and Kano rail projects.
He, therefore, suggested that the hearing be shifted to December 2020 when the loan facility would have been acquired.
However, Social Action, in a statement on Monday by its Communications Officer, Peace Agbo, condemned the minister, saying it was inconceivable that he could ask that the National Assembly should not investigate the loans taken by the Federal Government.
“This is unpatriotic to say the least, because such unguarded and anti-people statement can hinder any progress the country is making at achieving transparency and accountability.
“Perhaps, the minister should be reminded that the payment of loans is the collective responsibility of Nigerian tax payers and not an individual affair.
“In other words, the minister is of the opinion that the prospect of accountability will scare investors away. On the contrary, the absence of transparency and accountability in the midst of massive corruption is a major factor that will scare away investors,” the statement read.
Social Action, therefore, demanded that the probe should commence and also be extended to other institutions of the government to serve as a deterrent to leaders, improve accountability, give the country a sense of direction, restore and boost Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
“The minister should know that the lenders he is tenaciously protecting aren’t investors, but business-minded individuals, having their personal motives and interested in feeding off the common wealth of Nigerians and subtly needs his collaboration. We cannot be mute on corruption of any form to make lenders happy.
“It is unfortunate and indeed disappointing that the government has decided to enslave Nigeria through taking these loan deals without considering the long term effect of their actions.
“Such statement by the minister does not mean well for the country, as it puts the country on the perpetual end to remain in debts.
“This investigative hearing is important, so that Nigerians can know the terms of the numerous loan deals and also the economic importance of these loans
“[This is] because we have had several incidents of borrowed loans by the Federal Government to finance moribund projects that had little or no impact on the economy.
“The way and manner the present government is given to loans without commensurate infrastructures will definitely exacerbate its debt profile.
“The Federal Government should realise that Nigeria cannot loan her way out of poverty and poor infrastructure,” the group said.
Social Action also called on the lawmakers to do their job of oversight while checking the excesses of the executive arm of government.
“It is now clear that the process did not go through the proper scrutiny it should have gone through before its endorsement by the president.
“In another instance of their lackadaisical posture, the National Assembly members were sanctioning some of these loans despite CSO’s warnings, until the damage is done and then brings it to public knowledge.
“The lawmakers should truly represent the people by carrying out their legislative responsibilities in timely manner,” the statement added.
It could be recalled that the President Muhammadu Buhari admimistration, allegedly through the Transport Minister, negotiated a loan deal worth $500m with China in 2018, without the approval of the National Assembly.
The loan deal, which is a violation of Section 25 of the Debt Management Office-DMO Act, required the National Assembly’s approval on terms and conditions surrounding any loan.
To aggravate the issue, the Federal government signed the loan agreement which will allegedly require Nigeria to waive immunity on its sovereignty, if there wa a default in payment of the loan.