Cross River ex-governor tasks FG on aviation industry intervention, $500m Chinese loan
A former Governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri, yesterday, charged the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s aviation industry and reconsider the $500 Chinese loan before the country’s economy collapses.
Ebri, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), lamented that Nigeria’s penchant for taking loans from China could mortgage the future of Nigerians yet unborn.
Commenting on the recent sack of 75 pilots by Air Peace, Ebri told The Guardian in an interview that President Muhammadu Buhari should not allow market forces to dictate government’s choices.
“This is the time for intervention in the aviation industry. Sacking 75 pilots is not a minor issue in a country like Nigeria considering the amount of training they have undergone. The sensitivity of the sector demands that the Federal Government should show greater interest in what is happening there.
“Several countries have given bailouts to their aviation sector even with big airlines like Lufthansa. There is no reason why the Federal Government cannot do something like that to reduce the burden on the airlines. You can’t throw 75 pilots away like that and recall them in the next two months. They are not commercial or truck drivers you can just call back anytime. It requires a lot of things,” he stated.
On the Chinese loan for railway projects, Ebri argued that government needed to review its options, adding, “We should be patriotic enough to see how much of our future is being denied with some of these loans.
“For instance, less than 10 per cent of the railway loans enter Nigeria’s economy. In other words, you get the money, but the Chinese build the standard gauges, the cabins, wagons and they bring everything here. So, the loans have very little impact on the economy.
“When you get loans, you also have to get some benefits. We have the Ajaokuta Steel Company. So why are the gauges not coming from Ajaokuta? Why bring the labour force from China? What is coming into our economy? he queried.
Ebri, who bemoaned a situation where China takes interest and other things that follow the credits, said collecting loans was not totally wrong, but there should be some benefits to the local industries and economy.
He wondered why the country could not get Ajaokuta to supply most of the items required for the railway projects, stressing, “We must be circumspect in what we commit ourselves to because we need our industries to grow.
“What is the point spending money on Ajaokuta if we cannot get materials from Ajaokuta to support the building of railway in the country? The loan should be reconsidered in the light of the situation considering the nation’s sovereignty and others.
“We want a proper interpretation of the agreement. We can accomplish some of these things without borrowing all the time. But I think the National Assembly should use this opportunity to review the situation. In fact, Nigeria’s future has been mortgaged.”