This morning while sited at my study, I overheard a playing video with a popular vlogger saying ‘He was surprised at what has come over members of the House of Representative’. His concern was they seem to have woken up to their responsibility and he jokingly asked if it was the Coronavirus that has helped reset their focus. Well, any which way, we are grateful for the little good that comes out.
Actually, as an individual, I am pleased with the new sense of responsibility that members of the House are now taking on. Bringing these truths before Nigerians is a great feat and one, I pray continues. Today, all that may happen may just be that they bring it to public hearing, but over time we will then progress from there. At least there were days we never got to hear about them.
Well, let me go to the main focus of my writing this blog post. It is the point raised by the Honorable Minister of Transport in response to journalists asking him further questions as regards his session with the House Committee on Treaties and Protocol led by Hon. Ossai Ossai. The Chairman stated that there were variations as to loan agreements sent by relevant agencies to the parliaments and what gets signed at the end of the day. He cited cases where the sovereignty of Nigeria was waived to meet the demands of a lender. This was one issue that journalists placed before the Honorable Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi (See the video here as reported by ChannelsTV). While answering reporters, Amaechi stated that he just realized that such a clause existed but went on to say that nothing was wrong about such an agreement. To clarify his position, he acknowledged the need for lenders to have proof that they can recoup their money should in case a borrower is unable to pay back as agreed without such nation bringing up the issue of sovereignty and that was a very deadly assumption that he feels might have led to why those who agreed to the loan might have done so (losing sovereignty rights to national assets just to get the loan). He said normally what China does is to take over that same asset they have helped you develop with the loan you are now unable to pay back, and he asked ‘what is wrong with that?’
Sadly, that is where everything got wrong. No individual or government agency in my opinion should subscribe to such ambiguity when it comes to allowing another nation or organization rights to take over our national assets ( worse still no specific asset is named, it’s just like giving you’re a zealous entrepreneur a blank cheque to your account and thinking he won’t withdraw above your thought minimum). For China to have agreed to such deals means it puts them in a very strong position and satisfies their interest. Our officials need to do better. In all honesty, while Nigeria may be able to pay back the loan and things not getting to the point where the Chinese will activate that clause, but there is no guarantee that the Chinese will ask for their constructed rail back if Nigeria fails to meet the repayment conditions. Let our officials not make further grievous assumptions moving forward. Ray Dalio with his experience teaching about the mind’s countries put when they negotiate deals and I think the Nigerian representatives who signed that deal failed in this regard. Read what Ray said:
“From my contacts with policymakers in a number of countries I learned quite a bit about how international relations really works. It is quite different from what most people imagine. Countries behave in a more self-interested and less considerate way than what most of us would consider appropriate for individuals. When countries negotiate with one another, they typically operate as if they are opponents in a chess match or merchants in a bazaar in which maximizing one’s own benefit is the sole objective. Smart leaders know their own countries’ vulnerabilities, take advantage of others’ vulnerabilities, and expect the other countries’ leaders to do the same.”– Ray Dalio (Principles -Life and Work)
Now judge for yourself, between the Chinese and Nigerian officials that signed that deal, which was the smartest? China was more self-interested and less considerate only trying to maximize their benefit and interest while the Nigerian officials were taken good advantage of, allowing China to exploit our vulnerabilities. In the end, we may go into shock if China says ‘We don’t want back the rail we built, we want CBN, NNPC, etc.’ that is the position that the deal leaves us. While the honorable minister has no blame since it wasn’t his ministry nor him that signed such agreement but publicly reinforcing such a mindset is wrong and totally not in National Interest. In fact, the officials who agreed to such a deal should be penalized and all ministries and officials properly educated on such matters.
Lastly, this all shows the damaging effect of having a rubber-stamp legislature that will not keenly vet proposals, dutifully perform oversight functions and that can be bought over to keep quiet even when they spot misdeeds. It is good news that this current House is doing better in these regards and I call on the Senate to follow suit. Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria and may we get better as a nation.