The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has condemned the National Assembly’s planned questioning of loan processing for ongoing rail projects across the country, saying the investigation may frustrate loan agreement between Nigeria and China to finance the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project.
He explained that warning by the Government of China that loan negotiations may stall between the two nations in event that eyebrows were raised on the funds for the projects necessitated his concerns.
The Minister noted that summoning the ministry for explanations at the current stage of negotiations may propel the government of China from continuing with the next stage of negotiations.
Amaechi, through a statement released to newsmen on Wednesday, said that addressing the issue of the loans on the floor of the National Assembly before the loan was released would portray the Nigerian government in a bad light.
“The investigation being carried out by National Assembly may frustrate the loan agreement between us and China on the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project.
“So, if tomorrow we are unable to construct Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway because we didn’t get the loan, it is because of the investigation by NASS. I told the National Assembly that they can investigate but they should allow us get the loan first.
“If they stop the work from Ibadan to Kano, it is because of the investigations, same with Lagos to Calabar railway. If you think there is corruption, investigate corruption. What we are saying is that we should conclude negotiation first because there is pressure affecting the Chinese government in which they are talking to us directly.
“So, for me, what is primary here should be national interest. We have the approval to construct the Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano, and Lagos-Calabar rail lines; we are also at the point of negotiating for the loans. Summoning us to the National Assembly to come and address the loans would look like the government is no longer interested in the loan,’’ the statement read.
On plans to repay the loans, the minister said that profit generated from the train service would be used through a special account to be opened for that purpose, and that contrary to insinuations from some quarters, the Chinese loan was being paid directly to the Nigerian government to execute the rail projects.
“One good thing about the loan we are collecting is that they are not paid to us, they are paid directly to the contractors who execute those projects,’’ the statement added.