Halt all Chinese loans for Nigeria railways now
This piece is to alert Nigerians, the Federal Government, state governments, and local governments, communities, elders, and leaders of thoughts including professional bodies of the inherent danger and risks involved with the Chinese loans and their several projects in Nigeria. Reasons will be presented why these projects should be discontinued immediately and the options available to Nigeria.
The write up will look at Nigeria Railways projects and defer the airport case for another day. The Chinese Government funds and executes the transportation projects for the sole economic interests of China at the expense of the Nigerian Nation.
The Chinese have a popular adage that says, “If you want to get rich quick, build a railway”. This is an oft-recited Chinese mantra, embodied in China’s foreign policy and a major keystone for infrastructure investment strategy overseas.
A red flag needs to be raised for the appropriate judicial notice of the Chinese loans provided to Nigeria. If urgent steps are not taking now, these projects will end up like the white elephants of the past. Such white elephant projects are – Ajaokuta Steel Industry, Nigeria National Arts Theatre, Abuja National Stadium, Iwopin Paper, and Pulp Industry, Oshogbo Steel Rolling Mills, etc.
The issues at stake today on these Chinese Railway projects are by way of the summary are partly the following: The Carte Blanche freedom giving to the Chinese to landscape the length and breadth of Nigeria have serious implications for security and national growth.
The crisscrossing of planned railway projects and regional security dynamics has implications for security and peacebuilding and serve as potential flashpoints for local grievances.
Permissions to take area photographs are exclusively within the purview of National Security Agencies in any country. And for Chinese nationals under the cover of railways construction to engage in such acts borders on the infringements of national security for which there is no known or available proof from any of these security agencies of approvals before penetrating every nook and cranny of the Nigeria landscape in the name of Railways construction.
Such use of the area photographs that identified the locations of minerals through the use of sophisticated seismic instruments was evident in the recently arrested Chinese nationals in some Northern states where they were extracting minerals for exportation to China. Is such an act classified under “Railway” construction?
A fundamental question that we need to ask ourselves either as an individual or as a nation is to find out the essence of a rail or metro project and whether it will benefit the host city, metropolitan area, or nation in general. This is a question that is always asked across the globe before any groundbreaking is done. The question is necessary because we have seen countries when they did the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of a railway project, and they noted that the cost far outweighs the benefits to their country, instead of mortgaging their nations and subjecting the hard-earned independence to a foreign country to crème the best of such projects, opted out and embarked on other options. Indeed today, there are better transit options that are available to cities and countries at a much lower cost in the open market for anybody to explore and make informed decisions before zeroing on a specific option.
The Railway projects in Nigeria are many and all are under the exclusive control of the Chinese government. Some of the major projects are Abuja – Airport, Abuja – Kaduna, Lagos – Ibadan, Lagos – Kano, Kaduna – Kano, Ilorin – Minna, Minna – Abuja, Ibadan – Kano.
It is necessary to refresh our memory for the benefit of those who are unaware that the projects are executed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC). Who is and who owns CCECC? CCECC is an establishment of the Chinese government that is wholly owned, managed, funded, and controlled by the Government of China. It should also be noted that the funds are provided by the Export-Import Bank of China. The China EXIM Bank is also owned exclusively by the Beijing Government. So, CCECC is a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) that gets loans that serve as baits for countries like Nigeria. It is not a private entity that can be sued and made to account for any illegal practices or activities in any nation. It was founded to promote China’s interests in African countries who are desperate to relinquish their sovereignty, independence, freedom of their citizens, economy, and trading activities to the whims and caprices of China. All the Chinese staffs are paid and controlled by the Beijing government and are usually transferred at short notices to other African projects in cases of apparent malpractices in the host nations before the issue becomes a public scandal.
The hardware, raw materials and coaches are substandard when you compare with the ones being used in other parts of the world. In fact, in China, some of their coaches in operations are made by European manufacturers, with better quality and higher safety standards and specifications.
Training and education of Nigerians for capacity building: Are the construction contract drawings in English or Chinese Language? Are the Nigerian engineers in CCECC treated equally vis-à-vis the Chinese Counterparts? What is the relationship environment like within the Office set up? Is the cordiality truly representative of what the Chinese claim or is more of an apartheid working environment? How many of the Nigerian workers can boldly challenge their bosses without losing their employment?
Is the office culture not that of a master-servant relationship between the Nigerians and Chinese working on all the Railway projects? Is there any documentary evidence that the Chinese have the qualifications to warrant being in Nigeria or they are technicians and artisans?
Did the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) have written certifications translated from Chinese to English of all claimed site engineers and professionals and verified via the granting institutions as is typically done in other parts of the world and records of all the Chinese on the rail projects?
Are there truly and honest supervising ministry officials that can query mal-treatment of Nigerians on any Railway projects?
What types of relationship exists between the supervising ministry technical officials and the Minister of Transport? Is the relationship between the Minister and the Transport Railway Nigerian officials vertical or horizontal? Are there established records and procedures for granting project approvals in accordance with international best practices? Are the supervising ministry projects’ supervisors actually supervising or rubberstamping projects?
What are the total costs involved in every railway project in Nigeria? Who packaged the project costs? What comparative analysis is done for the project costs vs similar projects’ magnitude in other parts of the world? Are their consultations with the Nigeria Society of Engineers before and after the contracts were awarded? Are their consultations with the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors? Are the Environmental Agency involved for the Potential Impacts of the Projects on the Projects’ corridors and communities? Which International Organization(s) was contacted for advice and input on the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of the projects and available options?
Railway projects are executed on the basis of the ability to pay by the people that the project would serve. Do the riders have the financial means to pay? What percentage of rail patrons can actually afford the train ride? Today, 65% of Nigerians live in rural areas while 35% reside in the cities. What percentage of the city dwellers are in gainful employment? What percentage of the riders can afford to pay for the fares of a Railways system costing several billions of dollars to build in Nigeria today? Railway lines are being built all over Nigeria with loans that the riders cannot afford, and the country can’t pay either under the current economic strangulation. The National Assembly and Federal Government should take immediate and urgent steps now and halt the continuation of all Chinese Railway projects in the country.
The Chinese kickback money to government officials in Nigeria is not routed via the International Banking System network nor does it go through the Nigerian banks. The money is channeled through the Chinese Cargo coming into Nigeria. Since the Chinese Government operates on the basis of Carte Blanche in Nigeria with the impression that CCECC is owned by the Beijing Government, they have the unrestricted latitude to bring hidden foreign currencies in millions of dollars in their cargo without going through Nigerian Customs checks and inspection under the cover of Diplomatic Immunity. This is a verifiable practice that is also done in other African countries that would never be tried in Europe and North America. It should also be noted these unmonitored kickbacks are also being planned to be used for the 2023 coming elections.
Today the Chinese are too close for comfort in the Nigerian scheme of affairs. China is a Communist Nation by design to which every one of her citizens owes an allegiance to, which by implication makes every Chinese citizen in any region of the world a spy for the Beijing Government. Nigeria’s critical national assets and treasures (minerals and artifacts) are secretly being carted away by the Chinese strategically planted all over the country because of the Carte Blanche freedom enabled by the Nigeria Railways projects under the authority and watchful eye of the Minister of Transport. These treasures being carted away are handed over to the Chinese Government, the principal employer though the Embassy in Nigeria, who owns and funds the projects being executed by CCECC as earlier noted. Unfortunately, these valuable assets and treasures are taking out of Nigeria under the cover of Diplomatic Immunity.
Now, to allow the Chinese to continue to travel and execute projects in Nigeria is extremely dangerous for the country and the generality of the people. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda a few weeks affected the deportation of some Chinese. He said during the deportation, “You can’t eat from Africa and disrespect us. I am deporting these Chinese back to their country and never to return back. Rwandese must enjoy their rights in their country.” The deportees violated the laws of Rwanda through the consistent abuse of the rights of her people – “working abnormal hours like slaves” and also grabbing farmlands from indigenes.
I should place on record that grabbing of farmlands in Nigeria by Chinese nationals are currently going on unchecked in Kaduna, Kano, and some Northern states.
Odunmbaku-Wilson, Ph.D. Professor of Transportation Engineering, USA.
Former FCT Transportation Secretary & SA to the President and Lagos State Commissioner for Public Transportation.
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