Alleged Diversion Of Chinese Rail Loan Not True – Okonjo-Iweala
Former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okojo-Iweala has denied allegations that the $1 billion Chinese loan meant for the Kano-Lagos rail project ?was diverted to other projects.
The minister in a statement by her Media adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu, ?said the allegation has no substance for the simple fact that the Kano-Lagos rail project was not among the project funded by the China-Exim Bank.
It will be recalled that President Buhari last week directed that the alleged diversion of the fund be explained by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The directive follows reported statement made by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, while briefing the President on the activities of the ministry that a substantial part of a $1bn loan obtained from the China-EximBank by the Jonathan administration for a Kano-Lagos rail project was diverted to other projects. ?
But the former minister in her response said there is no truth in the reported allegation. She said anyone who is interested can cross-check with the China-EximBank or the Chinese Embassy.
“It is noteworthy that even though President Buhari, in his reported comments on the allegation, made no reference to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala but rightly stressed the need for due process and transparency in the execution of public projects, a sponsored media campaign has once again been launched by political elements to make the former Minister the culprit in a non-existent scandal,” the Ministers aide said in the statement.
“The alleged diversion has no substance for the simple reason that the Kano-Lagos project was not even among the projects presented for funding by the China Exim Bank for several strategic infrastructural projects across the country.”
“In fact, it was the Lagos–Ibadan rail project, not Lagos-Kano rail project that was proposed in the original application to the China-EximBank. But in the end, no funds were assigned for the Lagos-Ibadan rail project by the China-EximBank.”
While stating that the facts can be confirmed, Nwabuikwu listed the projects funded from facilities obtained from the China-EximBank to include $500m for the expansion of four International Airport Terminals in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt, $500m for the Abuja Light Rail project, $984m for the Zungeru Hydro-electric power project as well as $100m for the Galaxy Backbone project.
He said this projects are at various stages of progress.
“It is also important to note that even if the alleged project was on the list of China-EximBank funded projects, diversion of any Chinese funds would have been extremely difficult because the terms of the contract and the processes would simply not have permitted such action,” he added.
“The procedure is that funds for approved loans remain in the China-EximBank and are released directly to the Chinese firm executing the contract only after the presentation of duly certified proof of work by the responsible Ministry, in this case it would have been the Federal Ministry of Transport, based on the agreed milestones.”
“For the sake of emphasis, the China-EximBank does not disburse money directly to government and therefore the issue of diversion does not arise.”
“This is yet another example of the kind of whispering campaign of calumny, innuendo, misinformation, and outright distortions being perpetrated by certain political elements against Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in a bid to try to damage her reputation.”
“We are confident that those behind this campaign will continue to fail.”
“We respectfully request the media to refrain from attaching Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s name and photographs to spurious and unfounded allegations. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as a Nigerian citizen in a democracy, a citizen who has served her country with honesty and integrity, also has some fundamental rights to justice and fair play.?”