Abuja-Kaduna train breakdown: A taste of the Chinese pudding – Newstrends
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Abuja-Kaduna train breakdown: A taste of the Chinese pudding

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The Abuja-Kaduna train breakdown that happened last week presents a good illustration of the age-old adage that says: the taste of the pudding is in the eating. From all indications, the taste of the pudding which China is cooking for Nigeria is beginning to emerge already.

For over ten hours, some Nigerians were stranded in the middle of no-where, abandoned in the bush as a result of a failed locomotive. The train ride with all the luxury it purports to offer left a very sour taste in the mouths of the passengers, as they were buffeted by hunger and thirst for several hours, not to talk of failed appointments and the deep fear of being kidnapped due to high level of insecurity around that corridor.

There can be no gainsaying the fact that the breakdown of the locomotive is a foretaste of what is to come. The incident seems to tell Nigerians what the situation will be in the next five to ten years. Unfortunately, a taste of it couldn’t wait. As the transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, has said the embarrassing incident is so early in the day, and is quite unexpected. We quite agree with him. If this can happen at this time, less than one year of operation, one can imagine what the case will be in the next ten years.

True, the breakdown of the locomotives was not expected at this time by Amaechi and  the government of the day. This is because the Nigerian government officials either trust the Chinese so much or have chosen to underestimate or ignore the famed craftiness and propensity of the Chinese to cut corners. On the other hand, it could be because Nigeria has become a beggar before China, and as the saying goes, a beggar has no choice. In that light, she must take whatever China throws her way.

Indeed, one cannot talk about the train breakdown incident without talking about how the contract that gave birth to it was procured, same with other ongoing rail projects across the country.

These rail projects are being executed with loans from China. The loans are tied to projects and disbursed by the China EXIM Bank, with the interest said to be  subsidized by the country’s Ministry of Commerce. The commerce ministry assigns Chinese contractors to execute projects.

With such an arrangement, the project becomes entirely Chinese affair. The money barely gets into the hands of Nigeria since the loans are offered in the form of projects. Thus, most of the funds given out actually go back to China by way of supplies, salaries, allowances and housing of top and middle-level manpower, construction contracts and the whole equipment which are brought in from China.

With all the equipment, including the locomotives coming from China as part of the loan deal, Nigeria is not in a position to know or determine the competitive cost and  quality of the equipment. Nigerian negotiators will not know if the shiny locomotive is new or refurbished. All they do is to celebrate the arrival of the locomotives from China, and when everything is put together, they assemble to commission it with fun fare. How long the locomotive or equipment will last is another issue as there is no performance bond signed.

With what has begun to emerge so early in the day, one is afraid how Nigeria will be able to repay  the loans, given envisaged breakdowns which might impact on the operation of the railways. The breakdowns, if they become frequent and severe, may render some rail lines unviable, and therefore, disposed to take-over by the Chinese. The story of China loan/infrastructure projects in the developing countries especially, Africa presents a frightening scenario.

Across the African continent, in most of the transactions with China, corruption or kickbacks by government officials have been alleged. The loans are largely concessionary with lots of suspected undercover dealings and perks in favour of African government officials. These come in form of huge kickbacks, which largely do not go through the banking system.

The presence of the kickbacks indicates that the actual cost of investments in the projects will actually fall far short of negotiated loan amounts. This is a cause of worry concerning future default on these Chinese loans.

Another source of worry is the opaqueness of the Chinese projects and loans across all jurisdictions. In every country that China has shown its ‘magnanimity’, all the infrastructure of roads, ports, highways, railways and airports financed with these loans all connect to China in what has been aptly described as the “new silk road.” This means, perhaps, that these infrastructures are forever tied to China.

One curious thing is while China can give Nigeria refurbished locomotives or inferior equipment without batting an eyelid, it is willing to ‘donate’ to her a transport university said to worth $50 million. The amount even a kindergarten pupil knew that might have conveniently built into the inflated cost of the railway projects.

This is similar to its donation of a mighty Secretariat to the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – a gesture which has provided it a good launching pad to gain easy access to virtually all African countries, offering them irresistible loans that are tied to projects. The secretariat was also rumoured to be a mine of classified information for Chinese as they allegedly installed high tech spying gadgets all over the building during its construction.

While the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the managing director of NRC Fidet Okhiria, have apologized to Nigerians, with the NRC MD promising that the breakdown will not occur again, Nigerians remain skeptical of what the future holds for all the Chinese largesse for Nigeria.

* Business & Maritime West Africa Saturday Editorial

 

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Ways and means, new loans increased Nigeria’s debt to N24.3tn – DMO

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Ways and means, new loans increased Nigeria’s debt to N24.3tn – DMO

The rise in Nigeria’s public debt stock currently at N24.3tn is due to new loans, as well as Ways and Means securitisation, the Debt Management Office (DMO) has said.

Director-General of DMO, Patience Oniha, said this in an interview with NAN on Tuesday in Abuja.

On June 20, the DMO announced that Nigeria’s total public debt stood at N121.67 trillion at the end of the first quarter of 2024.

The public debt increased by N24.33 trillion or 24.99 percent from N97.34 trillion reported as of December 2023.

Oniha, speaking on the country’s total debt profile, said the increase in the debt stock was partly due to the securitisation of N4.90 trillion as part of the N7.3 trillion Ways and Means advances approved by the National Assembly.

Other contributors, according to her, are the interest rate, as well as new borrowing of N2.81 trillion as part of the N6.06 trillion provided in the 2024 budget.

“The total public debt as at March 31, showed that the total public debt in naira terms stood at N121.67 trillion compared to N97.34 trillion as at December 31, 2023,” she said.

 

“While detailed information was provided on the data such as the split between external and domestic debt as well as the fact that the debt stock includes the domestic and external debt stock of the 36 states and the FCT, it has become imperative to provide some explanations.

“It is important to recognise the fact that Nigeria has undergone some major reforms which have impacted economic indices such as the dollar/naira exchange rate and interest rates.

“These two, in particular, affect the debt stock and debt service.”

According to Oniha, the total external debt stock was relatively flat at $42.50 billion and $42.12 billion in Q4 2023, and Q1 2024, respectively.

She said, “The naira values were significantly different at N38.22 trillion and N56.02 trillion respectively, representing a difference of N17.8 trillion.”

She said, “This explains the perceived sharp increase of N24.33 trillion in the total debt stock in the first quarter of 2024.

“The difference in the exchange rate for the two periods also explains why in dollar terms, the total debt stock actually declined in the first quarter of 2024 to $91.46 billion.”

The DG said the debt report was however an improvement over the past, before President Bola Tinubu’s government.

She said if foreign exchange impact is removed, “the debt is moderate and within normal limit”.

Oniha urged the Federal Government to prioritise fiscal retrenchment while assuring that the various measures to attract foreign exchange inflows would increase external reserves and support the naira exchange rate.

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Car lovers relish Chery’s special offers at Circle Mall Lekki display

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Car lovers relish Chery’s special  offers at Circle Mall Lekki display

 

Lovers of new modern cars are still talking about their experience at the recent spectacular display of Chery models at Circle Mall, Lekki, Lagos, from June 15 to 18, 2024, many days after the event.

Apart from the unique designs and features of the vehicles showcased at the place, they are particularly thrilled by the exclusive offers to customers including making a down payment of just five million naira (N5m) on any Chery vehicle and enjoying a special five per cent discount throughout June 2024.

This event was organized to celebrate the Guardian Day, a significant occasion in China dedicated to appreciating the love, care, and support parents provide their children.

The centerpiece of the display was Chery’s latest models – the Tiggo 8 Pro, Tiggo 4 Pro, and Tiggo 2 Pro.

Each vehicle attracted significant attention for its blend of cutting-edge technology, sleek design, and unparalleled performance, promising to captivate the Nigerian market, according to a statement by Carloha Nigeria.

It stated, “In conjunction with the celebration, Carloha Nigeria extended an exclusive offer to prospective buyers. Throughout June, customers can make a down payment of just five million naira on any Chery vehicle and enjoy a special 5% discount.

“This initiative is part of Carloha Nigeria’s commitment to making luxury and quality vehicles more accessible to the Nigerian public.”

In addition to the exclusive offers listed above, Carloha Nigeria also said it hoped to further enhance the customer experience with an impressive six years of free service and a comprehensive six-year warranty or 200,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.

This, it said, was to ensure that Chery owners could drive with confidence and peace of mind, knowing their investment has been well protected.

“We are confident that the Chery Tiggo 8, Tiggo 4, and Tiggo 2, will exceed expectations and set new standards in the Nigerian automotive market,” said Mr. Joseph Omokhapue, the Sales and Marketing Director for Carloha Nigeria. He further stated that “Guardian Day is a wonderful opportunity to honour the values of care and support, which resonate deeply with Chery’s commitment to our customers.

Visitors to the Chery display at Circle Mall were delighted with luxurious Chery-branded gift items, adding an extra layer of elegance, appreciation, and engagement for attendees.

The showcased models – the Tiggo 8 Pro, Tiggo 4 Pro, and Tiggo 2 Pro –are said to reflect Chery’s innovative design, advanced technology, and superior performance.

These vehicles are tailored to meet the diverse needs of Nigerian customers, offering a blend of luxury, efficiency, and durability, it stated

It noted that Carloha Nigeria’s presence at Circle Mall not only highlighted the brand’s impressive lineup but also reinforced its commitment to fostering strong relationships with customers through value-added services and customer-centric promotions.

It added that the event at Circle Mall was a resounding success, drawing large crowds and generating significant interest.

It stressed that Carloha Nigeria remains dedicated to providing exceptional value and service, continuing to drive forward the standard of automotive excellence in Nigeria.

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Shell restates commitment to Nigeria’s socio-economic development, gets FRCN award

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Shell restates commitment to Nigeria’s socio-economic development, gets FRCN award

 

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) says it remains unwavering in its commitment to supporting the socio-economic development of Nigeria, especially in its areas of operations in the Niger Delta.

The SPDC Director and Head of Corporate Relations, Igo Weli, disclosed this in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Weli, represented by the Shell spokesman, Michael Adande, gave the position at a dinner on Friday to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Treasure FM, a member of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) network.

“Our commitment stretches back to the 1950s, with a wide range of programmes supporting education, infrastructure, community electrification, and business empowerment,” he said.

A major highlight of the anniversary dinner was the presentation of the FRCN Award for Consistent Media Partner to Shell Nigeria.

“This award serves as a strong reminder that Shell’s dedication to the socio-economic development of the Niger Delta region remains a cornerstone of our presence in Nigeria.”

The award recognises Shell’s partnership with FRCN, particularly its support for the weekly live programme ‘Canvas: Niger Delta Roundtable’, which fosters crucial discussions on development issues impacting the region.

Weli said, “While the award itself was unexpected, it reinforces the value of initiatives like Canvas.

“This recognition motivates us to keep promoting development, not just in our operational areas but across the entire nation.”

Canvas: Niger Delta Roundtable has since 2017 aired twice weekly on different radio stations in the Niger Delta with live online streaming.

It dedicates an hour in exploring topics relevant to the development of the region and its people.

General Manager, FRCN Treasure FM Port Harcourt, Fred Onyeka Nwaulune, commended Shell’s partnership.

He said, “Shell has been a reliable media partner, consistently educating the Niger Delta region on the importance of dialogue for development and peaceful solutions.

“Their programme aligns perfectly with FRCN’s focus on sustainable development.”

He noted that through the dialogue radio programme, Shell had demonstrated a continued focus on driving progress and positive change in the Niger Delta and beyond.

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