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Did China issue loan documents to Nigeria in Mandarin?

Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria 4 mins read

Nigerian lawmaker, Ben Ibakpa, said that China issued loans to Nigeria, signed in their native tongue. He also stated that the World Bank blacklisted China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, a company that has executed projects in Nigeria under foreign agreements with China.

Findings show that this claim is very unlikely as the claim-author is yet to provide proof. Conversely, Dubawa found Mr Igbakpa’s claim that CCECC, a major Chinese company that executes projects in Nigeria to have been blacklisted by the World Bank to be true.

Full Text

While he appeared on television last week, a Nigerian lawmaker, Ben Ibakpa, said some of the loan documents obtained by Nigeria from China were written in Chinese.

Mr Igbakpa, who represents the Ethiope federal constituency of Delta State, has been widely reported to have said this. He also shared this on his Twitter wall.

“Some of these loans are actually written in (the) Chinese language,” he alleged.

In the complete video of Mr Igbakpa’s TV appearance, he also claimed that China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the Chinese company that recently sparked controversy for inviting 15 Chinese doctors to Nigeria, has been blacklisted by the World Bank.

As Mr Igbakpa’s statement comes at a period when there’s been growing conspiracy theories regarding the perceived dominance of China in Nigerian affairs, it calls for a thorough verification. More so, given the platform on which the statement was broadcast, it has become an issue of national discourse. Dubawa consequently decided to drop its two-cents. Did Nigeria accept loans from China written in Chinese?

Verification

Firstly, Dubawa asked Mr Igbakpa if he could share the document he spoke about. He said he did not speak authoritatively but rather casually on “allegations from petitions sent to the House.”

Chinese loans

Next, we proceeded to check  records in the Ministry of Finance’s debt management office. As it turns out, Nigeria has obtained 17 Chinese loans to fund projects across sectors since 2002. The document also showed that China’s EXIM Bank is Nigeria’s biggest bilateral creditor in 2 decades, having lent Africa’s largest economy $6.5 billion (about N1.9 trillion) since 2002.  

Usually, for project-tied bilateral agreements, loan funds are released by the EXIM Bank of China to China’s ministry of commerce, which in turn contracts it to a Chinese company.

But are these agreements written in Chinese?

Hassan Adebayo, a journalist who did academic research on Chinese loans, said: “it’s not likely.” 

He said the loan documents he worked on for his research work, despite being sourced from China were written in English, “so why should those sent to Nigeria be different?” He also noted, “Chinese loan documents are rare in public.”

After all, China, a developing nation with some infrastructural and economic challenges, seldom publicly displays its private documents to avoid causing tension in the country, Mr Hassan told Dubawa.

Sun Saixiong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria also described the claim as unfounded since “there is no proof” from the lawmaker or those who petitioned the National Assembly.

“We need proof. Let’s even use common sense. Nobody would sign a document that was written in a language (they) don’t understand.”

Also, Tanko Abdullahi, spokesperson of the finance minister, said it’s all speculation. “He who alleges must prove. The office or the ministry has no comment on the issue.”

The World Bank blacklisted the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation

In August 2019, the World Bank blacklisted CCECC, alongside five other Chinese companies, for various infractions bordering on violations of its fraud and corruption policy in its contracting process.

This sanction consequently debarred all six companies from awarding any World Bank-financed contracts for at least a year, between June 4, 2019 and March 3, 2020.

My Igbakpa also said that “project-tied loans do not go through procurement processes, as the bureau of public procurement is sidelined,” thereby making the projects overpriced.

But the spokesperson of the Bureau, Segun Simmons, told Dubawa that the Bureau was not a party to the negotiation that brokered the loan deals. 

In addition, Mr Adebayo said the Chinese deals are largely on the terms set by China: “Nigeria’s role is mainly to supervise, to see if the projects meet the specification set.”

He noted that the execution, procurement of materials and financing are sole responsibilities of the Chinese parties to the loan.

Conclusion

A Nigerian lawmaker, Ben Igbakpa, alleged that some of the Chinese loans signed by the Nigerian government were written in Chinese. Findings show that this is very unlikely as the claim-author is yet to provide proof. Conversely, Dubawa found Mr Igbakpa’s claim that CCECC, a major Chinese company that executes projects in Nigeria to have been blacklisted by the World Bank to be true; the blacklisting was consequent on fraud, according to World Bank reports. More so, the Bureau of Procurement’s spokesperson, Mr Simmons told Dubawa that the bureau has no role to play in procurement processes, thus giving some weight to Mr Igbakpa’s statement regarding the sidelining of the agency during transactions. As always, we will update the fact-check if any new information arrives.

Yusuf Akinpelu loves stories and he tells them for DUBAWA, having tested them against available facts. He is a graduate of Statistics from the University of Ibadan, where he won the 2019 Youth Digest Campus Journalism Award of the Best News Writer, and 2018 UCJUI Award for Campus Journalist of the year. Occasionally, he writes satires. He has interest in human rights and believes in the Nigerian Project.

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