John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Chairman of Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, on Monday said the National Assembly would not approve any loan that would not be judiciously used.
He also dismissed insinuations that he was sabotaging efforts of the Kaduna State Government to access a $350 million loan from the World Bank.
The bank had recently approved the loan for the state government to improve on infrastructure development.
But it has to be approved by the National Assembly before it could be access by the state government.
Last week, a group allegedly sponsored by the state government accused Sani of sabotaging the state government efforts in accessing the loan presumably because of his political differences between the state Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
But Sani who fielded questions from journalists when he visited the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Kaduna, said there are procedures in approving loans, stressing that it is myopic for anybody to think that he alone could take decisions on such issues or any issue for that matter.
He said due process must be followed before any loan is approved .
The Senator disclosed that over 22 states had forwarded their requests through the president and it was forwarded to his committee for assessment.
According to him, some of the states were requesting for as low as $50 million while some are asking for $100 million, $200 million while Kaduna State alone is requesting $350million.
Sani said his committee was determined to do its job effectively without any form of sentiments or political inclination and would be guided by the law.
â€œWe are aware that loan of that magnitude will need to be repaid in about three to five decades.
â€œI have a duty to ensure that the next generation donâ€™t inherit debts that they cannot pay, and if debts must be left behind, a commensurate infrastructure to justify such debts must equally be left behind.
â€œOn the long run, names of those asking for the loan, those protesting on the streets will not be seen on the file and those that will use the loan and the contractors will not have their names on the file, but those who approve the loan will have their names on the file,â€ he said.
He said further that his committee would ensure that things are done properly and must be â€œconvinced beyond reasonable doubt what the funds will be used for. We have approved for some states which have justify reasons for seeking the loan, and about nine other states are still awaiting approval and their request is still being examined.
â€œNo amount of protest or any form of intimidation can make me to append my signature on anything that is wrong, all requests must follow due process such as verifying the debt profile of the state, whether or not the debt will be a burden on the state among others.
â€œWe are working on the loan request from the remaining nine states but political considerations will not be part of it.
â€œNone of the loan request will get approval unless we are convinced of its judicious use.â€
Explaining further, Sani said the approval for a loan is not only the job of the senate or his committee alone, â€œit also involve approval by the House of Representatives, and it is always publicly done.
â€œSo casting aspersions on my person or sponsoring people to protest against me is certainly not the way to go; the state government and the sponsors of the protest must have a rethink.â€
Meanwhile, a faction of the APC in the state loyal to Nasir el-Rufai has declared support for plans by the state government to access the $350 million World Bank loan.
The faction also endorsed plans by the state government to sack 21,000 primary school teachers said to have failed an assessment test to be replaced with 25,000 newly recruited teachers.
In a communique issued at the end of its caucus meeting at the party secretariat last Sunday in Kaduna, the caucus said the loan, which have moratorium of 10 years and 50 years repayment at 0.5 per cent interest, will be used to rehabilitate and equip primary and secondary schools in the state.
â€œWe have fulfilled all the conditions of the loan, it is a soft loan with moratorium of 10 years after collection and 50 years repayment with 0.5 per cent interest to revive health facilities, moribund industries and complete road projects,â€ the communique said.
The communique which was signed by Hon. Datti Mohammed Babawo said all the loan conditions had been met.