Leading development economist, Dr. Ken Igboanugo has warned the federal government especially the ministries of Transportation and Petroleum to be very careful before signing any infrastructure financing deals with banks from China to avoid tiny terms and conditions that will mortgage the economy in future.
In a telephone interview shortly after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Friday announced that Chinese banks had made commitment to finance oil and gas projects in Nigeria, Dr. Igboanugo said “Even though we are in a rush to get foreign assistance in infrastructure financing, serious care should be taken before signing any deal with China as their aids do not come so freely as they look on the surface”.
“For example, the way and manner Chinese firms are executing several rail and roads construction schemes do not provide any window for local content as they execute both those they came for and other associated jobs that should ordinarily be done by local firms.
Business Hilights gathered that weekend, the NNPC Group Managing Director, Maikanti Baru, disclosed when a delegation of the Nigerian Gas Association (NGA) paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja, that Chinese groups had recently committed $250m to some projects following a financing agreement signed in London.
In a statement, the spokesperson of the corporation, Ndu Ughamadu, quoted Baru as saying that, “On that occasion, I did challenge the Chinese banks that since they have now come on board, they should move from the back seat to the driver’s seat and they gave me their commitment that they have plans to bring in as much money as we need to execute our projects”.
“And if the Chinese tell you that they are going do it, definitely they will do it and we will give them a run for their money.”
Baru also stated that the NNPC had unveiled plans to expand gas generation and distribution nationwide in its bid to support the Federal government’s aspiration of increasing power generation to 10 gigawatts.
He said the recent debt settlement for the joint ventures would have great impact on the gas industry as the initiative was capable of freeing some dedicated funds that could be used to develop the sector.
According to Baru, “We have the aspiration of government to raise power generation to at least 10 gigawatts capacity, not just 10GW in terms of installed capacity, but one that will be steady in the grid by 2020”.
“All these will drive our activities to ensure that the gas business is expanded and government’s aspiration to earn as much revenue from gas as oil will definitely be realised.”
Baru said the current effort to connect the eastern part of the country, where there is a lot of gas reserves, with the west, where high consumption demand exists, demonstrated the NNPC’s readiness to impact positively on the power sector.
He noted that that a lot had been achieved in the contracting process of the $2.7bn Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kaduna-Kano pipeline project.
Baru averred that another project that would increase gas consumption in Nigeria was the Ogidigben Gas Industrial City project, adding that the NNPC was committed to seeing it delivered.