Reps panel member faults Chinese loan probe

The crisis over the investigation by the House of Representatives of Nigeria’s foreign loans and commercial agreements, especially with China, may not be over soon.

A member of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Mr Wole Oke, on Friday, said the panel had been acting on rumours, arguing that the relevant committees of the chamber should have handled some of the issues being investigated by the panel.

Oke, while featuring on a morning programme pointed out that the committee was delving into issues meant to be addressed by various standing committees of the House.

He also stated that contrary to the summons to various ministers, only the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and the Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, should have been invited.

Oke, who is Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, explained that the committee’s Chairman, Nicholas Ossai, prevented him from properly guiding it at the investigative hearing on Monday.

He said, “I think the various loans we have taken, be it Chinese, be it IMF, be it World Bank, be it African Development Bank, have passed through this process and presented in the budget estimates laid by Mr President.

“There was an insinuation or allegation or presumption that there were certain clauses in the agreements that are not friendly. Assuming, without conceding, that is the situation, who do you speak to? You speak to the crafters, people who are knowledgeable in law; you call the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Minister of Finance and the DMO.”

The lawmaker stated that the probe was creating a negative image for China, noting that the country was providing better loan packages.

He added, “When you look at (former) President (Olusegun) Obasanjo, you will recall that some of the London Club and Paris Club loans that we took from Europe and America, they were rescheduled; they were managed to the extent that we got debt forgiveness.

“So, if we now have China, which is giving a cheaper loan, cheaper interest rate and for longer and more favourably time, I don’t think we should begin to put it in a bad light. To me, what we should focus on is value for money.”

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