Nigeria’s Debt Management Office has moved to allays fears that the nation’s assets could be taken over by China amid rising debt acquisitions.
Patience Oniha, the Director-General of DMO, on Saturday in Abuja, said the Nigerian government takes “very sensitive steps” before contracting foreign loans.
One of the fundamental steps, she said, is that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice vets all loan agreements to ensure the country’s interest is protected.
“An important and extremely critical step is that the loan agreements are approved by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
“An opinion is issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before the agreements are signed,” she said.
Ms Oniha said multiple institutions of government are also involved to ensure that the loans were beneficial to the nation.
“Before any foreign loan is contracted, including the issuance of Eurobond, they are approved by the Federal Executive Council and thereafter, the National Assembly.”
The nation’s debt manager assured that loan agreements between the two nations provided a number of steps to take to resolve disputes when they arise.
“The first action is that the parties should resolve it within themselves and if that fails, they go to arbitration.
“In other words, a lender, in this case, China, would not just pounce on an asset at the first sign of a dispute, including defaults,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, loans from China to Nigeria, which presently stood at $3.59 billion, constitutes only 9.4 per cent of the country’s total foreign debt stock of 37.9 billion dollars, Ms Oniha noted.
She also clarified that the loans were largely concessional, as no national asset was tagged as collateral.
“Nigeria’s total debt stock as at September 30 was 37.9 billion dollars, this figure comprised the external debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory.
“But total loans from China stand at 3.59 billion dollars, which is 9.47 per cent of the total external debt. The loans did not require any national asset as collateral; they were largely concessional,’’ she said.
There have been reports, in recent times, about some African countries, including Nigeria, facing the threat of losing some critical national assets to the Asian country due to high level indebtedness.