Reps summon Malami, Finance Minister over controversial sovereignty clauses, $33bn rail contracts, others

• Committee adjourned because of pressure

The House of Representatives on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed over the controversies surrounding the signing of the sovereignty clauses in all the Chinese loan contracts and agreements including the $33 bIllion obtained by Federal Ministry of Transportation till date.

Other loans include $340 million (the equivalent of N40 billion) for the supply of information satellite (NigComSat) launched in 2008; the unstated amount for the supply of communications satellite 1-R; contract for the supply for clearing and installation, testing and commissioning of rural telephone project phase 1 between Federal Ministry of Communication and Huawei.

The Chairman, House Committee on Treaties, Protocols & Agreements, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai issued the summon during the resumed session which was attended by the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello and Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi.

Hon. Ossai who explained the Committee’s resolve to adjourned the investigative hearing for one week, in the order explained that the presence of the two Ministers became critical to the ongoing exercise who played significant roles in the signing of the contract agreements.

He said: “I will not ambush my colleagues in terms of studying the documents. We need to dissect the documents. The Ministry of Justice has been reached.

“They need to be part and parcel of this meeting. We need to interface with the minister of justice. More importantly, we also need the Minister of Finance who signs most of these documents.

“I am seeking the indulgence of the committee members. We want to make a far-reaching recommendation because it is very important.

“We must bequeath a Nigeria that is strong. I think we should adjourn this meeting for one week. I need a formal motion on it,” Hon. Ossai noted.

The Committee had reported that there exit clauses in the various Chinese loans which cede the country’s sovereignty to the Chinese government, while also querying why Hong Kong should be arbitration centre for the loans.

One of the lawmakers who spoke under condition of anonymity explained that the Committee resolved to suspend the exercise as a result of attempts by some interested stakeholders to influence and dictate the process and outcome of the investigative hearing.

He revealed that the chairman has been under intense pressure from unnamed stakeholders.

He said: “Although, the Chairman has given you reasons why we had to adjourn for one week before continuing with the investigation, the fact of the matter is that he is under intense pressure by some interested parties to either end this probe or apply some brakes.

“So many people are not comfortable with the revelations coming out of the investigation. And I can assure you there are more damaging discoveries, which this committee has made from the memoranda submitted by the MDAs.

“But I commend the Chairman for his courage and the maturity he has shown so far. I believe that by the time we reconvene next week, some of the pressure would have been subsided so that we will do a thorough job,” the lawmaker opined.

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After perusing through the letter accompanying the documents submitted to the Committee, Ref. No. T.4316/S.27/C.4/I/Vol.T1/223 dated 18th August 2020, a source close to the Committee alleged that three major documents critical to the ongoing investigation were excluded.

They are Copy of Addendum No. 2 in respect of the Nigerian Railway Modernization Project dated 28th August 2012; Schedule showing payments made thus far on the commercial agreements being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Transportation as well as the Certificate of interim claim from the Contractor.

The source, however, confirmed the submission of other documents namely: 14,273 Nigerian Employees engaged on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project against the 20,000 mentioned by the Minister, among others.

The letter read: ‘Re-request for Federal Ministry of Transportation to transmit to the National Assembly all signed bilateral loan agreements, financial investment agreements and other contractual documents between Nigeria and China since 2000 to date’, was signed by Mr Pius Oteh, Director Legal Services on behalf of the Minister.

It reads: “I am directed to refer to the proceedings at the public hearing of the committee held on Monday, August 17, 2020, and to your consequent directives to the Federal Ministry of Transportation to produce certain additional documents to assist the deliberation of the committee.

“Pursuant to the above, please find enclosed herein the following documents for your consideration.

i. 3Nos. volumes of the list of Nigerian Employees engaged on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project (total 14,273)

ii. Expenses incurred on procuring major construction materials in the local market;

iii. Local procurement contract (equipment and materials;

iv. Expenses incurred on purchasing vehicles and generators in the local market;

v. Expenses on project insurance

vi. Work sub-contracted to local companies with a list of the companies

vii. Copy of addendum no 2 in respect of the Nigeria Railway modernization project dated 28th August 2012;

viii. Properly witnessed copy of addendum no 2c (extra works to Lagos- Ibadan segment dated 23rd December 2019

ix. Copy of circular no SGF/OP/1/S.3/X/737 dated 11th August 2014 from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation titled “protection of the Federal Government and its corporation from foreign enforcement proceedings arising from contract arbitration in foreign jurisdictions”

x. Schedule showing payment made thus far on the commercial agreement being implemented by the FMOT; and

xi. Soft copy (Flash drive) of China linked project agreements being handled by FMOT,” the letter read in part.

 

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