By Adedapo Adesanya The federal government has paid 19.2 per cent, amounting to $96 million, of the $500 million loan it collected from China for the construction of rail projects. This disclosure was made by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, in a statement on Saturday, where he disclosed that the country will pay up the remaining balance within the stipulated period of 20 years. He said China was the only country giving out loans with a low-interest rate of 2.8 per cent, noting that no country in the world would give out a loan without a guarantee to pay back such loans. He said, \u201cThe trade agreement between Nigeria and China, the ministry of transportation does not take loan, everything about loan is directed to the Ministry of Finance, so, I couldn\u2019t have signed any loan because I don\u2019t take loan. \u201cWhat I signed is what is called a commercial contract, which is contract between the Federal Government and CCECC as a contractor, the contract between Nigeria and China is usually signed by the ministry of finance. \u201cWhether is the ministry of finance that signed it or the ministry of transportation, the issue is that nobody will give you loan free of charge. \u201cThere must be an agreement and such agreement must contain some terms, that doesn\u2019t mean that you are signing away the sovereignty of the country, no country will sign out its sovereignty. \u201cWhat clause 8 says is, I expect you to pay according to those terms we have agreed, if you don\u2019t pay, don\u2019t throw your immunity on me when I come to collect back the guarantee that was put forward, that is all. \u201cWe are paying the loans. In the same National Assembly sitting, they were told that of the $500 million loan, we have paid $96 million dollars already, Nigeria is already paying. \u201cAnd the $500 million was not taken by us, it was taken by President Goodluck Jonathan in his term and that clause was there. \u201cNigeria has the capacity to payback for the period of 20 years at 2.8 per cent, which country will give you that loan? Secondly, these loans are not given to us, they are paid directly to the contractors. \u201cOnce they sign that the job has been done, they pay the contractors and that has never happened before and these projects are in place. Are they trying to rubbish the fact that there is a railway from Abuja-Kaduna? \u201cThere is no loan in Nigeria, either internal or external, that is not approved by the National Assembly, none. \u201cChinese government will not even give you a loan without approval by the National Assembly because if they give you a loan without the approval from NASS that is no loan,\u201d Mr Amaechi explained. The minister further said the government needed the loans to boost infrastructure in the country. According to him, the sovereign guarantee and sovereign immunity clause raised by the NASS is a term used to ensure that loans collected are paid back. The minister said in the case of a default, only the assets constructed with such a loan would be taken back. He said: \u201cWhat you do is you give a sovereign guarantee and that guarantee is the immunity clause they are talking about. \u201cWhen we say, I give you a sovereign guarantee and we get immunity clause, the immunity clause is that, if tomorrow I am not able to pay and you come to collect the items we have agreed upon, that these are the items that am putting down as guarantee, I can waive my immunity and say no you can\u2019t touch it am sovereign country. \u201cSo, they are saying, if you are not able to pay, don\u2019t stop us from taking back those items that will make us recover our funds. So, is China our father that will give us money for free? \u201cIt is a standard clause in every agreement whether is America we signed it with, whether is Britain, any country would want to know that they can recover their money. \u201cAnybody that is saying he doesn\u2019t know what a sovereign guarantee or immunity is, too bad for the person, because it simply means in trade that I am not giving you this loan free of charge. \u201cJust like you go to the bank to collect a loan, the moment you don\u2019t pay they go after your assets you put down, that is all about the clause, the Chinese can never come and take over Aso rock and become President or Minister. \u201d And if the assets you put down become depreciated then you negotiate which assets they can go after. Chinese will never take over what was not constructed with the loan.\u201d Mr Amaechi noted that it would be unconstitutional to take a loan not approved by the NASS, but for confidentiality in government, he would have published the clauses generating the dust. The minister while asking the reason for the investigation by the NASS added that they were aware of all the loans. He said, "The Chinese is just asking us to show them the evidence that we will payback, which is the immunity clause. If we don\u2019t pay, they can take back their assets.\u201d On the Zambia experience, where the country could not meet up with its loan agreement, the minister said that the Chinese government will never take over infrastructure that was not constructed from the money taken. He also acknowledged that the finance ministry in a payment plan had started paying back some of the loans collected. He said the payment plan was the responsibility of the ministry of finance, and the Ministry of transportation was supposed to implement the contract. \u201cThey are meeting the requirements, at any point in time that we need to pay, we\u2019ll pay $1.6 billion was taken to fix Lagos to Ibadan, we are asking for $5.3 billion to fix from Ibadan to Kano. \u201c$3.2 billion to fix Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, then Lagos to Calabar which is about $11.1 billion, if those things were done when we had money, the infrastructure will be here today? The answer is no,\u201d Mr Amaechi added. The minister, however, called on the National Assembly and Nigerians to appreciate government effort in providing infrastructure in the country. Mr Amaechi noted that the Itakpe\/Warri rail project in the South-South, which was abandoned for 34 years by successive governments was fully rehabilitated by the present administration without seeking for loan.