The House of Representatives on has queried the current state of the $460m loan obtained from the China-EXIM bank for the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The House Committee on Finance asked why the CCTV cameras are not working years after the loan was obtained.
The issue was raised when the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Budget, Aisha Ahmed, appeared before the lawmakers in Abuja on Thursday to defend the 2020 budget proposed by the ministry.
The fund for the project was to be taken out of a $600m financing portfolio, which was secured as a soft credit loan, with interest repayable in 10 years, after an initial 10 years of grace.
The contract was awarded to a Chinese firm, ZTE Communications in 2010. The then Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga, had led a delegation to Beijing, China, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the deal.
Aganga was accompanied by the then Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri; and the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim.
Chairman of the committee, James Faleke, who asked the minister to explain the circumstances surrounding the loan and the project, stated that Nigeria must get value for its money.
Faleke said, “Before this administration, we have collected some loans and the one that strikes me the most is the $460m for CCTV installation in Abuja. I want to know the position of this loan. I am sure we are paying back (the loan) but the CCTV is not working.
“Any time we take a loan from China, the Chinese will come and do the job; they will bring all their equipment, the personnel and the goods, yet we do not have value for the money especially that of the CCTV. Where are we? I need you to look into it and send us a memo on this particular aspect.”
Responding, the minister said while Nigeria was already servicing the loan, she had no explanations on the status of the project.
Ahmed said, “We are servicing the loan but on the project, we will have to ask the FCT Authority because the project was deployed in the FCTA. I have no information on the status of the CCTV.
“The conditions of the loans that we take from China always will be that a Chinese company will provide infrastructural services. These are loans that are of 3 per cent (interest rate). The rails lines are being rolled out; the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan rails are all (from) loans from China and are being executed by Chinese companies.”
Faleke also asked about the current state of the bailouts given to state governments.
He said, “Sometimes ago, there were bailouts for banks. This country also bailed out those who bought NEPA (Nigerian Electricity Power Authority). And recently, the Federal Government bailed out some states on the payment of salaries. May we know the position of these bailouts – the refunds? How far? Where are we?”
The minister announced that the states have begun to refund the bailouts given to them.
“The states, as from September, have started pay back the loan that was provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” she said.
Ahmed added that the private organisations were now under the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation. She, however, noted that AMCON was now overstretched.
The minister said, “AMCON is an agency that was set up to buy out assets of institutions, especially financial institutions, to protect the financial sector. But currently, AMCON itself is stretched in the sense that the assets that they have bought are underperforming; the payments that they are supposed to be able to make are not happening at the rate at which they are supposed to happen.”
She noted that the government was now issuing promissory notes to the value of debts owed AMCON.
She, therefore, called for an amendment of the AMCON Act to enable the corporation to have more powers to take steps on the assets and the debtors.
Source: Punch News NG