The news in Nigeria has been awash with one thing lately — a Chinese loan deal by the Buhari administration.
On Tuesday, there was a new twist as former president Goodluck Jonathan was mentioned in the controversy. According to Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, Jonathan, like President Muhammadu Buhari, also took loans from China.
Reno Omokri, a former aide of the ex-president, accused the minister of lying and unfairly dragging the previous administration into the controversy.
TheCable has now fact-checked the claims and counter-claims.
First, the bone of contention:
The loan deal that is the subject of controversy was signed in 2018 between Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China.
The $400 million loan was obtained for Galaxy Backbone, the government’s information and communication technology (ICT) agency.
Federal lawmakers raised an alarm over one of the clauses in the loan which they said concedes Nigeria’s sovereignty to China.
The clause in question provides that “the borrower (Nigeria) hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of a 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”.
In the aftermath, Katch Ononuju, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while appearing as a guest on an AIT programme on July 30, accused Amaechi of perpetrating fraud under the guise of securing funds for railway projects.
In justifying his claim, he also made reference to Abuja-Kaduna rail project as one of those funded by loans secured from China.
Amaechi fired back at him, saying the loan for Abuja-Kaduna rail project which Ononuju was talking about was signed under the Jonathan administration.
“The loan he’s talking about — the Kaduna-Abuja railway — was signed by the President Goodluck Jonathan government,” the minister said during a TV interview.
Responding to Amaechi, Reno Omokri, a former spokesman of Jonathan, said the minister was misrepresenting facts.
In a statement on Wednesday, Omokri said: “Rotimi Amaechi … said that the loans suspected of surrendering Nigeria’s sovereignty to China were actually signed by the Jonathan administration. This is a lie. Rotimi Amaechi is as usual, being deceptive. It is his stock in trade.”
CLAIM ONE: JONATHAN TOOK LOANS FROM CHINA
TheCable findings showed that indeed the former president took loans to finance a rail project during his time in office.
According to documents obtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO), the Jonathan administration signed six loan deals with China, including the one used in financing part of Abuja-Kaduna rail project.
Part of the project, which Jonathan flagged off in February 2011, was financed with a loan of $500 million from the Exim Bank of China.
The loan agreement, signed on December 20, 2010, was specifically for the Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project (Idu-Kaduna section).
As of March 2020, $403 million is outstanding in the loan that is due to mature in September 2030.
CLAIM TWO: AMAECHI LIED ABOUT JONATHAN’S INVOLVEMENT
Omokri said the minister of transportation gave inaccurate information regarding loans Jonathan got from China.
He said while it is true that Jonathan also took loans from China, “it is false that that government signed away Nigeria’s sovereignty to China while taking those loans (and that) the loans which were suspected to have surrendered Nigeria’s sovereignty away were taken by the Buhari administration”.
Although Omokri’s claim that Jonathan did not “sign away Nigeria’s sovereignty” may be right going by what we know so far, this was never a bone of contention as Amaechi never accused Jonathan of doing so.
The loan, which Amaechi referred to during his interview on Channels TV which can be watched here, was the one used in funding Abuja-Kaduna rail project — and this was secured by the Jonathan administration.
CONCLUSION: Indeed, Jonathan took loans from China to finance projects. But it is not true that Amaechi lied about the previous administration’s loan deal with China. The minister’s claim, made in reference to an agreement different from the one currently generating controversy, is correct. (The Cable)