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$500m Chinese Loan: Reps Summon Amaechi, Others Over Railway Contracts

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The House of Representatives has invited the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Ameachi, his Communications and Finance counterparts, Dr Ali Isa Pantani and Mrs Zainab Ahmed to provide answers on $500million loan to be sourced from the Export-Import Bank of China for railway lines in the country.

The House Committee on Treaties, headed by Rep. Nicholas Ossai (Delta-PDP), also wants the government appointees, to provide details on the agreement signed between the Federal Ministry of Transport and the CCECC in respect of some railway projects in the country.
The projects are the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kaduna and Kaduna-Kano railways lines.

Also, summoned alongside the ministers is the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha.
Ossai, who issued the summons, said they are expected to appear on August 17, unfailingly with details of the contracts concerned.
According to Ossai, the House would need details on the agreement between the Federal Ministry of Transport and ZTE (Nig) Ltd in respect of the provision of community actions and signalling equipment for the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri line.

Also, the ministers are to provide details of the agreement between Federal Ministry of Transport and the China Railway Construction Company International (CRCCI) in respect of the Itakoe-Abuja line/ New Port in Warri project.
At its sitting, yesterday, the committee raised alarm over alleged waiver of Nigeria’s sovereignty in the government concessions loan agreement on Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II project between the government of Nigeria, represented by the Federal Ministry of Finance (borrower) and the Export-Import Bank of China (lender) dated September 5, 2018.

The committee specifically cited Article 8(1) of the agreement, which states 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”.

But in his presentation, the Minister for Transportation, Chibuike Ameachi, said the loan being sourced by his ministry is a total of $500million to complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway line, which he put at a total of $849million, with $349million as counterpart funding.

He explained that because China, which is giving the loan is sensitive and monitoring happenings in Nigeria, the House committee might wish to give him till end of December when all the loan would have been received.
Amaechi argued that the constant investigations by the National Assembly might give the impression that a part of the government does not approve of the loan and the Chinese government may withdraw the loan.
He said if this happens “some parts of the country will suffer.”

He added that the railway projects (Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kano) are yet to be completed and these will be affected Amaechi appealed to the committee to consider national interest in carrying out their oversight function.
He said if the Chinese government gets to know that there is a disagreement between the executive and the legislature concerning the loans, the process may be truncated.
“My fear is that if this probe continues, at the end of the day, some sections of the country may suffer. In oversight, there is what is called national interest. But in asking questions on these loans now, it may jeopardize these loans. The Lagos- Ibadan is not completed; the Ibadan-Kano is not completed.

“Let the government of China not say there us a disagreement in government on this loan and so we will not give this loan. So, I appeal to the chairman to give us from now till December, when we are likely to secure the loans. Then, from January, February, you can resume this investigation”.
Amaechi’s plea was not taken as the committee chairman insisted that the minister should return to the committee on August 17 with other ministers to give details of the contract agreements. He said, “we are looking for transparency, which is what the Chinese government wants. So, we will like to have the pre-payment plans from these loans.

“Most of these contracts signed by the government are not known by the National Assembly as provided for in the DMO Act, and we are supposed to know. We need to know how many Chinese are involved in these projects and their expertise.
“In the documents, we have seen there are variations in interest rates. Why do you sign these documents at the same time with different interest rates”.

Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, summoned the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, her counterpart in the Ministry of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to appear before it over the N2.7trillion legacy projects of the Federal Government.
Also summoned were the contractors handling the legacy projects which included the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Expressway, and the Second Niger Bridge.
The Senate Committee on Finance led by Senator Solomon Adeola gave the summons after a meeting with the management of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), led by its Managing Director, Uche Orji.
Adeola, who spoke on behalf of the Senate panel, said the committee needed those being summoned to provide information about the variations that had taken place on the projects and the approving authorities.
He also said the panel would need to know details of the agreements signed between the Federal Government and the contractors before the NSIA took over the projects.

There has been an existing tripartite agreement between the NSIA, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Works on the Legacy projects.
The Senate summon was sequel to the disclosure by the MD of the NSIA that his agency had no details of the agreements signed on the projects before he took over.

He said, “On the issue of funding, by virtue of the information at my disposal and by what the finance minister made me to understand, is that you are playing critical roles by providing funds for the legacy projects. As of today, two years down the line, only $300million is in the books, this cause for concern.

“We believe that funding is critical to these projects. If the funding is not there, there is no way we can achieve those time frame that you have set out for the completion of the projects.
“On that note, we would be bringing on board, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Works and Housing, the Managing Director of the NSIA, the Accountant General of the Federation, and the contractors who should be invited by the Minister of Works.”

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Court Orders FG To Pay Rivers $1,114,551,610; A’Ibom $2,258,411,586

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Hon. Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo has ordered the Federal Government to pay Rivers State $1,114,551,610.00 and Akwa Ibom State $2,258,411,586.00, respectively.
The money is entitlements of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, based on the subsisting decision of the Supreme Court over production sharing contracts arising from the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts.
Taiwo delivered the judgment in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/174/2021filed by the Attorney General of Rivers State and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State against the Attorney General of the Federation.
It would be recalled that in 2016, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states, through their Attorneys-General, had sued the Federal Government, represented by the Attorney General of the Federation at the Supreme Court in Suit No: SC.964/2016, seeking a declaration that there is a statutory obligation imposed on the Defendant (the Federal Government) pursuant to Section 16(1) of the Deep Offshore Inland Basin Production Sharing Act, Cap.D3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, to adjust the share of the Federation in the additional revenue accruing under the Production Sharing Contracts if the price of crude oil at any time exceeds $20.00 per barrel.
The states had asked the court to declare that the failure of the Defendant to accordingly adjust the share of the Government of the Federation in the additional revenue in the Production Sharing Contracts (variously approved by the Defendant) following the increase of price of crude oil in excess of 20.00 per barrel in real terms, constitute a breach of the said Section 16(1) of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, and has therefore, affected the total revenue accruing to the Federation, and consequently, the total statutory allocation accruing to the Plaintiffs by virtue of the provisions of Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
The three oil producing states further prayed the court to issue a consequential order compelling the Defendant to adjust the share of the Government of the Federation in the additional revenue under all the Production Sharing Contracts in Nigeria’s oil industry within the Inland Water Basin Deep Offshore areas as approved by the Defendant from the respective times the price of crude oil exceeded $20.00 per barrel in real terms and to calculate in arrears with effect from August, 2003, and recover and pay immediately all outstanding statutory allocations due and payable to the Plaintiffs arising from the said adjustments.
It would be recalled that at the Supreme Court, the Attorney-General of the Federation opted for an out of court settlement, and consequently, terms of settlement were duly drawn up by the parties and entered as the judgment of the court.
The judgment specifically stated that the reliefs in the amended Originating Summons relating to the larger interest of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the entire citizenry of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be diligently implemented.
It was also agreed that the Attorney General of the Federation, working jointly with the Plaintiffs should undertake to immediately set up a body and the necessary mechanism for recovery of all lost revenue accruing to the Federation Account in the past and up till the date of full recovery and accruing in future or an acceptable instalmental payments thereof within 90 days next from the date of execution of these presents or its being made judgment of the court.
Following the judgment of the Supreme Court and in compliance therewith the Attorney General of the Federation, the Defendant, constituted a body to determine the respective liabilities including the amount due to oil mineral producing states as derivation proceeds.
The report of that body stated among others that Rivers and Akwa Ibom states were entitled to $1,114,551,610.00 and $2,258,411,586.00, respectively, as derivation proceeds.
However, Attorney General of the Federation, without recourse to the governments of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, unilaterally claimed to have settled with International Oil Companies (IOCs).
It was gathered that this unilateral action on the part of the Attorney General of the Federation as the Defendant in the judgment of the Supreme Court that led Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, to fill the suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Based on the suit filed by the state, the Federal High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo, declared that Rivers and Akwa Ibom states were entitled to $1,114,551,610.00 and $2,258,411,586.00, respectively, as derivation proceeds.
The court also awarded a post judgment interest of 10 per cent in favour of the Plaintiffs until the final liquidation of the judgment.

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Declare State Of Emergency On National Assets, Experts Tell Buhari

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Against the backdrop of challenges facing national assets across the country, the Association of Facilities Management Practitioners of Nigeria (AFMPN), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to declare state of emergency on public infrastructure.
The call was made by AFMPN President, Collins Osayamwen, in an interview with newsmen, while speaking on the new vista his leadership has opened for the association to play a strategic and critical role as a professional body charged with the responsibility of maintaining and managing public infrastructure if the bill at the National Assembly was passed into law and assented to by Buhari in order for Nigerians to enjoy public assets.
However, Osayamwen pointed out that public infrastructure has not been given the desired attention over the years as a result of not giving recognition to professional facilities managers who government needs to collaborate with to maintain critical national assets worth billions of Naira.
He said, “It is evidently clear that our public infrastructure is in a state of emergency and the government needs to declare a state of emergency in order to rescue our public infrastructure from total collapse.
“The reason for lack of maintenance of our infrastructure is not far-fetched.
“It is because, in Nigeria, the profession that is saddled with the responsibility of looking after the built environment does not exist in the list of professionals that constitute the building team.
“We are seriously concerned about the deplorable state and deficit of public infrastructure in Nigeria. In 2012, the Infrastructure Council of Regulatory Commission (ICRC), alluded that $12billion to $15billion was required annually for the next five to six years to bridge the infrastructure deficit gaps in Nigeria.
“It is worthy of note that if these figures are anything to go by, the situation should have become worse by now, nine years later.”
He also explained that in the built environment, architects are responsible for conceptualisation, design and supervision of the project; the Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and even the IT engineers are responsible for design and construction of the building systems; the building engineer carries out the physical construction of the building.
“Now, let’s examine the role of these professionals. They all perform a certain function and they leave the site once their assignment is completed. Not even one of the professions listed above is trained to look after the building. Once the building is commissioned, they all leave the site for a new project.
“Unfortunately, all the activities carried out in the building up till the stage of completion is less than 20 per cent of the life cycle cost.
“The remaining on-going activities and cost of over 80 per cent is operations and maintenance cost and activities.
“This critical stage in a building life cycle is often neglected, hence, the poor state of our infrastructure. I cannot overemphasize the role of the facilities management practitioners in managing our built environment,” he stated.
According to him, the main reason Nigeria has not been able to maintain her infrastructure is because “the profession responsible for maintenance is not yet recognised for its strategic role in Nigeria as a profession and Facility Management profession is not recognised as a member of the built environment practitioners.
“Maintenance starts from the design stage of a facility. It requires painstaking planning, scheduling, budgeting, sustainable programme management and implementation of maintenance technologies, and others.
“It takes more than culture to effectively and efficiently maintain a facility. It requires time, money, and experience to maintain infrastructure,” he added.

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Flood Ravages NASS As Senate Confirms New COAS

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There was a downpour in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, yesterday morning, leaving several parts of the National Assembly Complex flooded.
The central lobby at the ‘White House’ section of the building, which adjoins the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, was flooded.
Other areas affected include the third and last gate to the premises as well as the road linking the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the National Assembly.
The Senate had resumed plenary, yesterday, while the House is to resume on June 28, 2021, as the National Assembly returns from a mid-term break.
At the lobby, workers of the two private firms engaged for cleaning services at the complex were busy mopping the floor while it rained.
Water could be seen dropping from several points on the famous green roof.
Some senators watched as the workers struggle to keep the floor dry.
During the plenary, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Maj-Gen Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff.
The Red Chamber took the decision after the consideration of the report of its Joint Committee on Defence and Army led by Senators Aliyu Wamakko and Ali Ndume.
Earlier, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, had on June 2, referred the request of President Muhammadu Buhari for Yahaya’s confirmation to the committee.
The Defence Committee, which is chaired by Wamakko, was mandated to be the lead panel to screen the newly appointed Army chief.
Yahaya was appointed to replace Lt-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, who died in a plane crash with 10 other military officers while on an official trip to Kaduna State, last month.
Until his appointment, Yayaha was the Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East.
Meanwhile, at the House, the downpour delayed legislative activities as several committees which had scheduled the meetings and hearings for the morning were forced to delay the events, as several workers and guests were said to have been trapped in their vehicles.
For instance, the House Committee on Disabilities, which was to begin an investigative hearing on ‘The Need to Investigate the Alleged Violation of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria and Private Airline Operators’ at 11am had to commence the event at about 12:15pm.
Also, the House Committees on Communications; Justice; Information and Culture; and National Security and Intelligence, which were to hold an investigative hearing on the recent ban placed on Twitter by the Federal Government shifted the event from 10am to 1pm.

By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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