(/NAN) Authorities in Zambia dismissed reports that five people have so far died due to the hunger situation that has ravaged some parts of the country.
Following poor harvests, caused by poor rains, some reports have indicated that five people have died of hunger in Shangombo district of western Zambia.
Chanda Kabwe, the National Coordinator of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, said neither his office nor the provincial administration in the province have received such reports.
Kabwe added that there was merely a scheme meant to cause panic in the country.
In a release, he said the government was aware of the increasing need for relief food in the cited district and has since doubled the relief allocation to the district to meet the growing needs.
The official, however, expressed concern with increased levels of negative reports concerning the hunger situation in the country.
He has since urged lawmakers in the affected districts to engage his office in finding better ways of responding to the needs in their constituencies. (NAN)
Edited by Halima Sheji/Abdulfatah Babatunde
China Loan: Amaechi says Nigeria will pay back in 20years
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi says Nigerian government has the capability to pay back loans collected for the construction of rail projects within the stipulated period of 20 years.
Amaechi, in a statement on Saturday, said China was the only country giving out loans with a low interest rate of 2.8 per cent.
He said no country in the world would give out a loan without a guarantee to pay back such loans.
“The 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’t have signed any loan because I don’t take loan.
“What I signed is what is called 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.
“Whether 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.
“There must be an agreement and such agreement must contain some terms, that doesn’t mean that you are signing away the sovereignty of the country, no country will sign out its sovereignty.
“What clause 8 says is, I expect you to pay according to those terms we have agreed, if you don’t pay, don’t throw your immunity on me when I come to collect back the guarantee that was put forward, that is all.
“We are paying the loans. In the same National Assembly sitting, they were told that of the 500million dollars loan, we have paid 96 million dollars already, Nigeria is already paying.
“And the 500 million dollars was not taken by us, it was taken by President Goodluck Jonathan in his term and that clause was there.
“Nigeria has the capacity to pay back 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.
“Once they sign that the job has been done, they pay the contractors and that has never happened before and this project are in place. Are they trying to rubbish the fact that there is a railway from Abuja-Kaduna?
“There is no loan in Nigeria, either internal or external that is not approved by the National Assembly, none.
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: “What you do is you give a sovereign guarantee and that guarantee is the immunity clause they are talking about.
“When 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’t touch it am sovereign country.
“So, they are saying, if you are not able to pay, don’t 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?
“It 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.
“Anybody that is saying he doesn’t 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.
“Just like you go to the bank to collect a loan, the moment you don’t 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.
” 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.”
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 dusts.
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 pay back, which is the immunity clause. If we don’t pay, they can take back their assets.”
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.
“They are meeting the requirements, at any point in time that we need to pay, we’ll pay. 1.6 billion dollars was taken to fix Lagos to Ibadan, we are asking for 5.3 billion dollars to fix from Ibadan to Kano.
“3.2 billion dollars to fix Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, then Lagos to Calabar which is about 11.1billion dollars, if those things were done when we had money, the infrastructure will be here today? The answer is no,” Amaechi added.
The minister, however, called on the National Assembly and Nigerians to appreciate government effort in providing infrastructure in the country.
Amaechi noted that the Itakpe /Warri rail project in the South South, which was abandoned for thirty four years by successive governments was fully rehabilitated by the present administration without seeking for loan.
Edited By: Yakubu Uba/Felix Ajide (NAN)
Zambia reports 408 new COVID-19 cases as total surges to 5,963
This brings the cumulative number of cases to 5,963 since the outbreak of the pandemic in March.
Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Kennedy Malama said during a daily COVID-19 update that the new cases were picked from 1,611 tests conducted in the last 24 hours.
He said the new cases also include 15 health workers and four truck drivers.
The country also discharged 514 patients, bringing the total recoveries to 3,803 while two more patients died, bringing the total deaths to 151.
The country has so far conducted 83,093 tests since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Zambian gov’t partners Chinese university in village chicken rearing project
The Zambian government in conjunction with China‘s Jilin University has set up nine farms for village chicken rearing projects in Luanshya, a mining district in the Copperbelt province of Zambia.
Patrick Maipambe, Luanshya District Commissioner, when addressing farmers in the district Thursday, said “this village chicken rearing project is spearheaded by Technology Serve Organization and the University of Zambia in conjunction with the Jilin University of the People’s Republic of China.”
Maipambe said the government of Zambia was committed to diversifying the nation’s economy by putting up deliberate policies that would allow other stakeholders especially Chinese nationals to improve the production of livestock such as village chicken rearing as well as fish farming.
“The promotion and implementation of the project in Luanshya will be done through the ministry of livestock and fisheries,” he said.
Maipambe said that chicken processing plants would be put up in some farms under the village chicken rearing project.
He advised farmers to take the project seriously saying that this would help create more jobs for the locals. “Government of Zambia will continue working with stakeholders who mean well in improving the lives of Zambians socially and economically,” he said.
World Bank gives Zambia 142 mln USD to support women empowerment, girls’ education
The World Bank has given Zambia 142 million United States dollars which will go towards livelihood support for women and boost access to secondary education for disadvantaged adolescent girls in extremely poor households, the bank said on Wednesday.
In a release, the bank said the funds are for additional support to the Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment which the bank has been supporting.
The Swedish International Development Association (SIDA) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) which are jointly funding the program have also provided 35 million dollars co-financing grant.
According to the release, the project has supported more than 28,000 girls from poor households by covering their secondary school costs and about 75,000 women with livelihood packages, including life and business skills, mentorship and support to form saving groups.
The project, according to the release, is also supporting regular and predictable cash transfers to some 245,000 extreme poor and vulnerable beneficiaries which have gone a long way in improving basic consumption, resilience and investments in productive activities.
The financial support, according to the release, is to protect the basic needs and human capital of the poor.
“With this support, we are hopeful that better human capital outcomes will be attained through educating adolescent girls, empowering women and supporting the poorest households with longer-term investments, as well as enhancing government’s capacity to manage such interventions,” Sahr Kpundeh, the World Bank Country Manager for Zambia said in the release.