Dr. Chizea

OBINNA EZUGWU

Economic consultant and Chief Executive Officer, BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea has described as alarmist and untrue, suggestions that there are clauses in loans obtained from China ceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to the Asian nation.

The House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocol and Agreements had raised an alarm on Tuesday that the clauses in Article 8(1) of the commercial loan agreement signed between Nigeria and Export-Import Bank of China allegedly concedes sovereignty of Nigeria to China in the $400m loan for the Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project signed in 2018.

Chairman of the Committee, Ossai Nicholas Ossai who raised the alarm while probing loans received by the government, noted that the controversial clause in the agreement signed by Federal Ministry of Finance (borrower) on behalf of Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China (lender) on September 5, 2018, 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.”

This has since led to widespread outrage across the country with some public affairs commentators accusing the President Muhammadu Buhari government of trying to “sell Nigeria to China.”

Reacting to the controversy in a statement on Thursday, however, Dr. Chizea said it was inconceivable that a country’s sovereignty would be signed away by the stroke of the pen.

“Their is this alarmist cry that there are clauses in the loan agreement which would tantamount to the selling of the sovereignty of Nigeria to China! In the first place that in my humble opinion is wrong choice of words,” Chizea said.

“Literally speaking you cannot sign off the sovereignty of any country. It is not a chattel that you can transfer ownership based on some agreements. All who go to China to ask for loans must be familiar with their terms by now. They don’t vary in any material details. The terms are as constant as the Northern Star!”

Chizea emphasized that Chinese loans often come with soft conditions and are always borrower friendly.

“The loans conditions are soft. The repayment period is long. The interest rates are borrower friendly always low single digit and there is often attached long moratorium before repayment kicks in,” he said.

“But the Chinese will handle the construction using top of the class technology. They will not allow you to handle any aspects of the project. There citizens will work on the project and they will handle literally all input. And that for them is value adding. It is left for the borrower to ensure that the assumptions and terms are not weighted against him. But if you default and it could not be remedied, the Chinese takes over and runs the business on commercial terms to recover their money or for that matter takeover and have ownership permanently transferred.

“But it is not conceivable that the project will be relocated. And therefore the benefits still accrues to your environment. Is that now what is being referred to as selling off our sovereignty? But Loan agreements are of a technical nature and not something that our legislators should overly dabble into. We must give the benefit of doubt to our experts to act in our best interests. And whenever they don’t as a deterrent their must be consequences.

“But Rotimi Amechi is right. This loan is sovereign and if the Chinese see gathering resistance, they could be a change of mind. And that could be disruptive! We are in agreement therefore with the Minister that the decibel should be lowered not to throw spanner in the works. Let’s allow our experts handle and conclude negotiations. There will be plenty of time for over sight responsibility.”