Chinese Loan: Reps Suspend Panels’ Sittings

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The House of Representatives has suspended activities of its standing and ad hoc committees, including panels investigating finances of the Federal Government.

The Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, who made the announcement, in a notice dated August 19, 2020, with reference number NASS/9.HR/OLDR/ADM/VOL.1/0031, said it was a decision by the leadership of the House.

One of the major groups affected by the suspension is the Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements investigating external loans and commercial agreements between Nigeria and other countries, especially China.

The activities of the committee generated controversy nationwide as the Federal Government on  Monday admitted the loan agreement with China contains sovereignty clause,  which gives the Asian country the permission to seize a facility if Nigeria defaults in the payment of the loan.

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The committee Chairman, Nicholas Ossai, had said the clause was not only ambiguous, but also dangerous.

He vowed to go ahead with the probe and ensure the renegotiation of the controversial loan agreement.

But the probe was stalled on Thursday with the suspension of activities of House committees.

The notice read, “The leadership of the House of Representatives has recently met and resolved that, henceforth, all activities of standing and ad hoc committees be put on hold while the House is on its annual recess.

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“Accordingly, all standing and ad hoc committee chairmen are, hereby, directed to suspend with immediate effect, all committee meetings, public hearings and other engagements until the House resumes from its annual recess.

“The Clerk of the House should also ensure strict compliance to this circular by all committee clerks and other relevant staffs (sic) of the House of Representatives.”

The National Assembly is scheduled to resume plenary on September 15, 2020, after a two-month annual recess.

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Both the Senate and House of Representatives had resolved to continue work at the committee level during the break.

The suspension notice came two days after a drama at the hearing by the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, probing  Nigeria’s external loans.

The Chairman of the committee,  Ossai, had had a heated argument with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, over the manner the probe was being conducted.

Before the altercation, Amaechi had warned that the lawmakers’ insistence on the investigation could make China to stop the loan.

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