Probe implementation of $849m rail project
China may not sign $5.3bn Ibadan-Kano rail loan if probe continues, Amaechi warns
Summon Zainab Usman, Isa Pantami and Patience Oniha
The House of Representatives on Tuesday raised alarm over lethal clauses in Article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and Export-Import Bank of China which allegedly “wills the sovereignty of Nigeria” in the $400 million loan for the Galaxy Backbone’s Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Backbone (NICTIB) Phase II Project, signed in 2018.
Chairman, House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai observed this during an investigative hearing into some of the agreements signed between Nigeria and China, where the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi responded to various questions on the ongoing modernisation of railway projects being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Transport, according to a report by Tribune Online.
This is just as the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi warned that the Chinese authorities may not sign the $5.3 billion Ibadan-Kano rail line loan if the Parliament continues to investigate the agreement.
According to the agreement which was signed by Federal Ministry of Finance (Borrower) on behalf of Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China (Lender) on 5th September, 2018, Article 8(1) of the agreement, provides that: “The Borrower hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of 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.”
Ossai said: “I have also seen from the Ministry of Communications where Nigeria signed off some certain level of its sovereignty if part of the clauses is breached? So, when the National Assembly reacts in this manner, to question some level of agreements being entered into by any ministry of this country with any other nation, we have every right to question that because anything that is going to happen will happen to our generations unborn. Whether we get it from China or not is immaterial.
“The most important thing is that we must save and protect our people as regard agreements, because most of the agreements that have been signed, the National Assembly has no knowledge (of them). Even the details embedded in those agreements are not forwarded to you when demanding counterpart funding.
“You don’t have the details, clause by clause, in line with the Act that established DMO. We need to know those details even before going to sign such agreements. But those details are not provided to the parliament. So, we have the right to question them.”
Worried by the development, Ossai summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Usman; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Isa Pantami and Director-General of Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms Patience Oniha, to appear before the Committee on August 17, 2020 with all relevant documents on the controversial agreements.
In a related development, Ossai during the investigation into various railway contract agreements signed between Nigeria and CCECC on the modernisation of railway projects demanded details of the agreements signed on the construction of various railway lines including Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Kano rail projects.
According to Debt Management Office (DMO), as at March 31, 2020, a total of $96.15 million had been paid on the loan, leaving a balance of $403.85 million as outstanding, while the interest has been paid based on semi-annually on reducing balance basis, with 30 years maturity date (leaving 10 years pay-off window).The chairman, who expressed concern over the conflicting positions between the Director (Legal) in the Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning, Mr Gabriel Christopher, warned the minister against blackmailing the Parliament.
He said: “You are trying to blackmail this committee. You are trying to pit this committee against Nigerians,” adding that there was the need to investigate the “variations on interest rates,” which he described as “an aberration.”
“We are not saying because the money is not paid directly to people in this country. We have seen the agreement. We have also seen a clause where sovereignty is waived if we default. We have seen it in the document. It is here in the document where the sovereignty of our country is waived and we believe that the particular clause is not part of what they brought to the National Assembly to approve.
“No National Assembly member will look at that clause and approve such. In your own way, you might be right with what you are doing to defend this country when reaching and signing these agreements. Others might not be so. So, we must take a critical look at them one by one. This committee had not been functioning in the National Assembly before but now, the committee has started functioning, and we must use this committee to defend Nigerians,” he emphasised.
In his response, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi disclosed that the sum of $500 million was the loan component borrowed from China while the balance of $349 million is the counterpart funding from Nigeria.
While urging the Committee to defer the investigative hearing till December to enable Nigeria conclude the process of the loan, he said: “I have said here to the House, and it is a pity that I’m saying it in public, this government, outside Nigeria, they are sensitive to what you say. Nobody is stopping you from your investigation and no government from outside Nigeria can stop you from doing it.
“We are saying that Nigeria has applied for three loans already. For Port Harcourt-Maiduguri (Eastern Rail Line), the Minister of Finance told me that she was stopped and told that the next borrowing plan would not be approved unless you get Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. Port Harcourt-Maiduguri goes through the South-East and the North-East. The only South-South town is Port Harcourt.
“We are about to apply for a loan. They will not grant that loan.“Then you summoned us back to the House to ask why we are constructing Lagos-Kano and we are not constructing Port Harcourt-Maiduguri.
“Can we be allowed to get this loan? Then you can summon us, not to start what you are doing and the whole process will then be stopped,” he observed.
While reiterating his position on the need to step-down the investigation pending the conclusion of the processes, the minister said: “My fear is that at the end of the day, some sections of this country will suffer if they stop giving us loans; two projects that will suffer: the first one is Lagos-Ibadan (rail line), we have not finished disbursement.
“We are asking for a loan to commence work from Ibadan to Kano. The day they (China) say ‘the government is not supporting the loans you people are taking, we are no longer giving you,’ that is the end of the project.“I completely concede to you, chairman, and to the House of your powers to investigate, to oversight the Executive but in over-sighting the Executive, there is what is called national interest. You don’t underhand the pressure I suffer when I travel down the East and I’m being told that we are not doing any railway in the East.“
“Again, the economy of this country can only be propelled by transportation. We don’t mind this investigation but can we please shift it to December or January when we would have possibly taken these loans. Once we get these loans, Chairman, turn me upside down, I will answer you.
“There are rumblings up there in China and there are loans we have asked for. If your government is not in agreement with this – don’t forget that there are all sorts of allegations against China here and there – we can stop. And the moment it is stopped, the following things will happen: Lagos-Ibadan is not completed. And I want to put it on record, so that when it happens, they would know that I said it; Ibadan to Kano too,” the minister noted.
Speaking earlier on the details of the parameters of the loan, Director (Legal) of Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Gabriel Christopher explained that the concession interest rate was 2.5 per cent.
One of the lawmakers who frowned at the development, said: “This committee is not and will not put an end to the projects ongoing. It should be on record. It is not the intention of this committee to stop any project that is ongoing. This committee represents the Nigerian people and the Nigerian people have questions, and we will ask those questions to get answers for them.
“This committee is not in any way antagonising what the Nigerian Government is doing. As far as we are concerned, Nigeria is lacking key infrastructure. And if we can get good loans anywhere in the world to finance this infrastructure, this committee will even recommend more. The only thing we want to know is more facts about loans. For instance, Ministry of Finance told us they secured a loan of $500 million. The project in question, from your Director of Finance, is $849 million.
“Is it that Nigeria came in with counterpart funding? We also need to know. Nigerians are asking questions and your ministry is very key and critical to the survival of our economy, particularly with the railway sector which is something we have been trying to take off for a very long time. We got $849 million from the Ministry of Transport and we got $500 million (from Ministry of Finance). There is a discrepancy,” he noted.
While ruling, Ossai who observed that Section 21 of the Debt Management Office Establishment Act, which partly states that ‘no external loan shall be approved or obtained by the minister unless the terms and conditions shall be laid before the National Assembly and approved by its resolutions’, directed the Ministers and other stakeholders to appear before the Committee on the 17th August 2020 unfailingly.
[Source: Tribune Online]
UBA denies report linking Bank, Tony Elumelu to N41bn NITEL fraud
The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc has denied the report credited to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, alleging the bank’s involvement and the indictment of its chairman Tony Elumelu in a N41 billion Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) fraud.
According to a report by THE WITNESS, Mr Elumelu’s lawyers demanded a public apology and retraction of the claim within seven days of receipt of the letter or face legal action.
The said reports credited to Akinyelure alleged the amount was withdrawn “systematically from NITEL for nine years” under the leadership of the UBA.
“Our Client is shocked by this false, baseless, and mischievous allegation as neither him nor any of the organisations associated with him has ever been involved in or indicted for any fraud as was falsely alleged by Senator Ayo Akinyelure,” the letter by Elumelu’s lawyers read.
“Our Client is also alarmed and appalled by this deliberate peddling of falsehood and misinformation against an unblemished personal and business reputation, painstakingly built by our Client over several decades with great personal sacrifice and unquestionable integrity.
“Our Client has instructed us to, and we have demanded an immediate open, public and unreserved retraction of the said statements credited to Senator Akinyelure and an apology from Senator Akinyelure for this false allegation and defamation of our Client,” it added.
Group Managing Director/CEO of UBA, Kennedy Uzoka, is due to appear before the Senate committee on Wednesday.
[Source: The Witness]
Fintech1000plus honours three telecom network operators, members
Fintech1000plus, Nigeria’s foremost informal association in the banking, financial and allied technology sector recently honoured three telecommunication companies and some of its members following their immense contributions, sacrifies and support in the association’s CSR COVID-19 intervention for the NCDC.
Leading the honours list as Fintech1000plus Heroes are; Airtel, MTN, Gobalcom, Rev. Sunday Folayan, Sola Fanawopo and other volunteers.
The awards were presented by Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director Sterling Bank plc and Omoke Adebanjo, Mastercard Senior Vice President, Regional Franchise Lead (Middle East & Africa). Both are members of Fintech1000plus.
Speaking at the virtual event which was held recently, Iyin Aboyeji, Founder Future Africa and member Fintech1000plus said, “after some weeks after COVID-19 hit the country we observed some technology challenges which the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was having. They included; inability to efficiently disseminate mass media communication & information to all mobile phones concurrently, and incidence reporting which includes; tracking, tracing and citizens action points.”
The association after discussing among its members and interacting with the NCDC decided to put together a number of front-end interfaces that will rapidly use the Covid-19 Risk Assessment triage to quickly analyze information from the public, while storing the information in a backend database for subsequent analysis and follow-up.
The front ends were made up of; Interactive Voice Response system (IVR), USSD application in major Nigerian languages, desktop tools for web-based access, and a mobile APP.
Moreover, as much as possible, make the front ends toll free or ZERO cost to the people, and for the telcos to make the portal access free for such incident response systems.
Acknowledging the outcome of the Fintech1000plus support, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, commended the association, its telecom partners and volunteers for a job well done.
“The fight against COVID-19 is not a government or public sector battle alone. But that of every stakeholder of the Nigeria project. Fintech1000plus support is well appreciated and a commendable partnership from the private sector. It is our wish that such will continue, not just during this COVID-19 pandemic but in other areas in future”, he said.
Fintech1000plus is an informal association of professionals in the financial technology sector that adopts a pragmatic approach to solving problems, especially those that impact the ability of Nigerians to do business and make payments and Settlements Electronically.
In line with its CSR activities, it played significant roles in the fight against the global Covid-19 pandemic working with NCDC.
Zenith Bank unveils ‘Zenith Beta Life’, promo to reward customers weekly
Zenith Bank Plc, Nigeria’s leading financial institution, has commenced its “Zenith Beta Life” Promo to reward customers of the Bank with gifts every week starting from 31st July 2020 to 30th July 2021.
During this period, fifty (50) customers will be selected via raffle draw each week and rewarded with gifts worth NGN30,000.
The Promo is open to existing and new Zenith Bank customers with the following raffle qualifying criteria:
- maintain a minimum deposit of NGN5,000 for the period;
- request and collect a Zenith Bank Card; and
- download and register on the Zenith Mobile App or register for *966# EazyBanking.
Zenith Bank Plc is recognised as one of the most customer-focused financial institutions in the country and was voted the most customer-focused bank in Nigeria for the retail and SME segments in the 2018 KPMG Annual Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey (BICSS).
A clear leader in the digital space with several firsts in the deployment of innovative products, solutions and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions, Zenith Bank has clearly distinguished itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service quality, unique customer experience and sound financial indices.
In recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019 by the World Finance and the Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Agusto and Co.
The Bank was also recognised as Bank of the Year and Best in Retail Banking at the 2019 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards.
More recently, the Bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria, for the third consecutive year, in the Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2020”, number one Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital in the “2020 Top 1000 World Banks” Ranking published by The Banker Magazine, Best Bank in Nigeria 2020 in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020, and Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020.
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