$5.8bn loan request: Senate to decline approval over South-East exclusion
The Senate, Tuesday, said it would decline to consider and approve the $5.8 billion loan request from the China Exim Bank by the Federal Government over the exclusion of the South-East from the beneficiaries of the loan. The Federal Government had requested the approval of the Senate foe it to borrow the sum for the construction of Standard Guage lines from Lagos-Kano, Kano-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, and Lagos Calabar.
While considering a motion moved by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, (PDP Abia South), the senate resolved that the loan would not be considered except all regions were carried along in the utilisation of the loan. The Senate upheld the argument of Senator Abaribe that there was no reason why the South East should be excluded from the rail project for which the loan was sought.
Abaribe in his motion requested the Senate to suspend consideration of the loan request until the Federal Government included the South East as beneficiaries in the project. However, the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki noted that the leadership of the National Assembly had already identified the flaw and had taken it up with the executive. Saraki said the executive had taken note of the issues and had agreed to reach a resolution with the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt on the matter. He stressed that it was only when the committee submits its report and the South East was not captured that there would be need to take the action being requested by Senator Abaribe. Meanwhile, the Senate okayed the motion to invite the minister of transportation to explain why the Eastern line was excluded from the plan. The minister is expected to appear before the committee on Local and Foreign Debts to explain the exclusion.
Abaribe in his motion had queried with dismay why the government wanted to take such a huge loan that would benefit all other regions apart from the South East. He said the loan would be paid back by all section of the country and as such, all section should be taken into consideration. “There is railway master plan developed by the Ministry of Transport and of which such plan has not been referred to in the current borrowing plan. “For the railway project to have a meaningful impact on the development of the country, it should cover all parts of Nigeria.
“Therefore the exclusion of the Eastern section that links the four zones of the South-South, South-East, North-Central and North-East and the Key cities such as Port-Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Makurdi, Lafia, Gudi, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri is inexplicable,” he said. The Deputy President of the Senate also supported the motion stressing that the whole country would pay for the loan and as such the loan should be beneficial to all. For Sen. Gbenga Ashafa, he said government was a continuum and as such, the South East could still be captured in the future. His comment infuriated many of the senators who shouted him down.