NIGERIA – The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has condemned what it described as the new form of economic colonialism foisted by China and occasioned by toxic and enslaving loan agreements with Nigeria.
The group also blamed President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of attempting to foist a situation whereby most Nigerians will not be able to opt-out of the future and slave labour camp of China.
Recall that the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols, and Agreements, chaired by Nicholas Ossai had on Tuesday discovered a clause in a Chinese loan contract that supposedly puts Nigeria’s sovereignty at risk in the event of default.
The contract in question was a 2018 loan for $400 million from the China Exim Bank to build Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project.
The chairman of the House committee also said there are agreements signed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy where the country’s sovereignty will be breached if it defaults in the agreements.
The group noted that generally, there are global concerns about the alleged fraudulent, irregular, and underhand features of Chinese loan contracts with some African countries, which had resulted in a new form of economic colonialism foisted by the Asian giants.
It noted that since all Chinese loans are tied to infrastructural developments, some of the African nations have had to forfeit their stakes in the infrastructure, which they used as collateral after they defaulted.
“One of the most cited examples of alleged debt-trap diplomacy by China is a loan given to the Sri Lankan Government by the Exim Bank of China to build the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport,” HURIWA said.
HURIWA, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, noted that Nigeria has obtained 17 Chinese loans to fund different categories of capital projects, and Nigeria will still be servicing the Chinese loans till around 2038, which is the maturity date for the last loans obtained in 2018.
It pointed out that Nigeria owes China about $3.1 billion, more than 10% of the $27.6 billion external debt stock.
HURIWA thinks that Nigeria would not be able to clear these debts basically because the country lacks accountability, transparency, and responsibility to refund the loans.
HURIWA noted that when it comes to loans, Nigeria has failed to implement the three factors in its engagement with the Chinese.
“What it means is that we lack the ability and we don’t have the headroom anymore to repay because our independent revenue has been strangulated by our enormous debt hanging over the Federal Government as it stands now,” the group said.
Also, it said that the increasing Chinese loan is an indication that the nation has not considered the history of Chinese loans.
“Out of 64 countries that host the Chinese Belt and Road initiative projects, 20 have gone under distress and 8 are about to lose their sovereign debt sustainability if they should take any further loan. If that was supposed to be a good guide, it means Nigeria needs to be very careful with this type of loan contracts which threatens our sovereignty.
“More worrisome is that the Nigerian Government is currently facing a legal battle to overturn the judgment of a United Kingdom Court that awarded a $9 billion debt payment in the Process and Industrial Development deal (P&ID),” HURIWA noted.
The rights group said that the basis for its concern stems from the figures presented in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.
According to HURIWA, the figure shows that while Nigeria spent a total sum of ₦943.12 billion in debt servicing in the first quarter of 2020, the Federal Government’s retained revenue for the same period was only ₦950.56 billion.
It noted that already, a quarter of Nigeria’s N10.3 trillion (proposed) 2020 budget, that is N2.5 trillion, goes to debt servicing. The budget is still being considered by federal lawmakers.
“This chain barely allows cash to get into the hands of the recipients; rather, the loans are offered in the form of projects.
“Most of the funds given out actually go back to them by way of supplies, construction contracts with all the equipment brought over from China itself.
“Therefore, we are by this Statement demanding that the Nigerian Government should within the next 72 hours pull away from the toxic and enslaving loan agreement with China, which threatens our sovereignty.
“Failure to do so, in our capacity as a prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group and in a bid to advance the single agenda of building a formidable and economically strong united Nigeria in general and the future of our youths in particular, we will mobilize civil rights advocacy groups in Nigeria to challenge this new form of economic colonialism foisted by China and signed off by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in court.
“Additionally, we shall write to the United Nations and China to dissociate the entire youths from such a thievery being arranged by the APC led Federal Executive Council of Nigeria, as well as consider protests to the Embassy of China in Abuja if the enslaving loan agreement is not discontinued.
“Similarly, we call on the United Nations to conduct plebiscite on the loan request while warning that if the loans are received and the clause on forfeiture of sovereignty is not legally voided, then it will motivate millions of Nigerians to begin Self Determination agitation or the dissolution of Nigeria.
“We blame President Muhammadu Buhari for attempting to foist a situation whereby most Nigerians will not be able to opt-out of the Future and slave labour camp of China, which is what the loans agreement is all about. A stitch in times saves nine,” HURIWA said.