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Reps deepen MDAs’ probe over Chinese loans

As part of efforts to make up the time lost due to COVID- 19, the House of Representatives has fasttracked its oversight function in investigating Federal Government’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) over loans obtained from China. The House has, in the past one month, been probing into loans sourced from the Chinese Export-Import Bank to finance railway projects in the country.

The House committee on treaties, agreements and protocols investigating the loans suspended activities yesterday for one week. Already, several MDAs have been compelled to submit series of documents relating to the loans, while others are still expected to do same within the next week. The MDAs include the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Debt Management Office (DMO).

The committee is also expecting submissions from the Ministry of Police Affairs as well as the Ministry of Justice, among others. As that probe is on-going, the House committee on insurance and actuarial also yesterday began investigation into the N180.9 million insurance premium allegedly paid for the failed Satellite 1 project, which was launched in 2011 as well as Satellite 1-R for which Nigeria obtained $500 million Chinese loan. Consequently, the committee has given a seven-day ultimatum for the submission of all documents on insurance transactions of NigComsat.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Darlington Nwokocha, queried managing directors of Fasahal Insurance and A & G Insurance engaged by Nig- ComSat management over alleged irregularities surrounding the unilateral appointment of the insurance brokers without recourse to due process. According to Nwokocha, the committee’s investigation was premised on about six petitions written by concerned Nigerians within the insurance industry and those working within some of the organisations invited He explained that the investigative hearing was aimed at unravelling issues bothering on infractions and impunity perpetuated by the operator who allegedly influenced the contract as well as financial recklessness entrenched in the multi-million dollar satellite contract(s) He, therefore, issued a seven-day ultimatum for all the parties to provide relevant documents relating to the transactions. While responding to questions on the appointment of Lead Insurance company, NigComSat Managing Director/CEO, Abimbola Alale, argued that the Chinese company, which manufactured the satellite, unilaterally nominated the UK-based insurance firm to insure NigComsat 2, which was launched in 2014. On her part, NigComSat legal adviser, Mrs. Alina Okpalefe, who affirmed that she was the secretary of the project committee, disclosed that no legal official accompanied the delegation to China where the contract was sealed in 2011.

However, in his presentation, the managing director of Fasahal Insurance Company, Mr. Frederic Adejo,who affirmed that he is not a chartered broker, disclosed that NigComSat introduced him to the Lead Insurance firm. While responding on the actual premium paid for the satellite project, Adejo, who disclosed that the sum of N180,992,836.35 was paid in 2014, argued that he shopped for Marsh outside the Nigerian shore. In another breath, he denied knowledge of the relationship between Marsh- Nigeria with the Lead Insurance company.

On his part, the managing director of A & G Insurance company, Mr. Abiola Ajibowu, argued that all relevant documents required by the committee have been transmitted. He disclosed that the only evidence of the contract is the policy document, which contained the value of the asset, premium paid and the period of the insurance policy. Following his position, the chairman demanded bank statements on all the transactions, schedule insurance policy, just as he stressed that there is no classified information that should be hidden from the parliament.

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