‘Why N’Assembly Approved $5.5bn Loan Request’


NLRC, stakeholders ask House c’ttee to block ICPC’s request to retain 5% of recoveries
James Emejo in Abuja
Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, on Thursday defended the National Assembly’s recent approval of President Muhammadu Buhari’s $5.5 billion external loan request.

He said though the parliament is also concerned over the rising debt profile, government must nevertheless spend its way completely out of recession.

Speaking at the routine media briefing, he said while borrowing is not a problem in itself, the utilisation of borrowed funds should be of primary interest to Nigerians.
Namdas, however, noted that the National Assembly would beef up its oversight functions to ascertain that borrowed funds are judiciously utilised.
He also said the loan approval was based on lawmakers’ confidence that Buhari is unlikely to renege on his words over the purpose for which the loans were being sourced.

He said: “The main reason we decided to approve this loan is because we know the president is a man of his own words and we believe he can implement what he said he was going to do.
“And because of that, Nigeria just got out of recession recently and both the speaker and president during the budget presentation were emphasising on the fact that we must not slip back into recession and we are all praying we don’t slip back into recession.

“And for us not to slip back into recession, we need to heavy spending and of course, there’s need to approve these loans so they can cater for projects already earmarked to be undertaken, particularly the Mambilla hydro power.
“We feel he (the president) can do it. Already, the borrowing has already been captured in the 2018 budget and that’s why we had no doubt that this thing can be implemented.

“We know that we have debt issues but we just have to spend; we’ve gotten out of the recession, some people say it’s technical, while some people say it’s very slim but we want to be truly settled that we are out of it.
“And because we would also do an oversight to see for ourselves that after this is borrowed, whether they are actually utilised for what they said they are going to do.

“And we promise Nigerians that we will do exactly what we are asked to do by trying to ensure that once it is approved, we’ll follow through to see if they done what they are supposed to do.”
Meanwhile, the bid by the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for the National Assembly to approve its request to retain five percent of recoveries for the running of its operations has been vehemently opposed by the Nigeria Law Reform Commission (NLRC).

Speaking at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives on Anti-Corruption of the amendment of the ICPC Act, 2000, the Director, Public Law of the NLRC, Kodilinye Ezeobi, warned that acceding to the ICPC request will cause it to abandon its core mandate and derail in its primary functions.

The NLRC recently kicked against a similar request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to which was seeking to retain seven percent of its recoveries from looted funds.
The law reform institute, including other stakeholders, contended that the remittance of percentage to agencies involved in the recovery of tainted funds or property will be morally incorrect.

Ezeobi argued that government agencies permitted to retain certain percentages of funds that pass through them are strictly revenue generating agencies like the Customs and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
However, acting Chairman of ICPC, Bako Abdullahi, had in his submission demanded among other things that the commission be allowed to keep certain percentage of recovered funds for its expenses.

Also, aligning with the position of ICPC, EFCC Deputy Director, Legal, Mr. Johnson Ojogbane, said the retention of certain percentages by anti-corruption agencies which recover the funds is a global practice and not an isolated campaign.
The committee is expected to collate submissions from stakeholders to form its report which will be deliberated and approved by the House.