Nigeria defends $500 million Chinese loan, troops on counter-terrorism
The Federal Government yesterday denied allegations by Amnesty International (AI) that Nigerian troops burnt some villages and forcefully displaced the residents.
Although the Defence Headquarters had responded to the accusation, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke yesterday at a news conference in Abuja, said Nigerian troops do not employ arson as an operational tactic, saying that looting and burning of villages are the styles of Boko Haram terrorists.
The minister, while upbraiding the international human rights group, added that in carrying out their duties, “Amnesty International should not cast themselves in the league of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists. They should stop the growing practice of constantly attacking the military and casting them as the bad guys when all they are doing is putting their lives on the line to fight terrorists who have no respect for the sanctity of life.”
He noted that Boko Haram willfully go after women and children and attack houses of worship without respect or allegiance to any religion.
He said: “Amnesty International should stop providing succour for terrorists by attributing their atrocities to our troops. Our soldiers, who are defending the country, are guided by extant rules of engagement and operational codes of conduct. They should not be made to look like the aggressors here.”
On the allegation that the Federal Government plans to spend the $500 million Chinese loan on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the minister debunked the claim, saying that in an era of social media, the real news is usually sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism and disinformation.
He said it is wrong for a section of the media to report that the loan is being sought for the NTA alone and disclosed that the fund is for three major projects
One, to construct a headquarters complex and transmission network for Integrated Television Services (ITS), the FG-owned signal distributor that is a major component of the country’s Digital Switch Over (DSO).
Two, to build an ultra-modern media City in Ikorodu that will have the following facilities, Indoor/Outdoor shooting area, Animation Production Facility, Digital Media Training Centre, World-Class Cinema, Four-Star Hotel, an Amusement Park and Amphitheater.
Mohammed, who further disclosed that part of the loan would go for acquisition of digital movie production equipment for rental and power system, a media city training academy that will be only the second of its type in Africa, also said that part of the fund would go for the digitisation of all NTA stations, including the headquarters, its 12 zonal stations, the 36 state capital NTA stations and 76 community stations.