Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Senate Thursday rejected the request for a $350 million World Bank facility for Kaduna State, on grounds that the state is already highly indebted to the tune of $232 million.
The Senate also said the state government did not follow the pre-conditions listed for such loans, and was not clear on the purposes for which the loan was being sought.
The position of the Senate was based on the recommendations of its Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, which said to approve the loan, would constitute a huge debt profile on the state, which would burden the finances.
The loan request captured in the 2016 â€“ 2018 federal government external borrowing plan, has a low financing rate of 1.25 per cent interest, moratorium of five years and a 25 year maturity tenor.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Shehu Sani said the $232 million was accrued from loans obtained by the state from 1960.
Sani, who incidentally is from Kaduna State, has been in a running battle with the state Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
He, however, dispelled any political colouration to the rejection of the loan, explaining that Kaduna is the second most indebted state in Nigeria, after Lagos State.
Approving the loan, would put Kadunaâ€™s total debt profile at $582.1 million, which would be unsustainable and attract unnecessary huge financial burden on the meagre federal allocation to the state, Sani cautioned.
â€œWith the high total debt stock of Kaduna State at the moment, the new borrowing sought, will make the debt service to revenue ratio high, thereby worsening the state governmentâ€™s ability to meet its other basic obligations to the people and further erode the economic viability of the state,â€ Sani said.
He also wondered why the state government wants to obtain a facility that is almost twice the volume of the existing debt portfolio.
Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi also from Kaduna expressed opposition to the loan request, noting that the state government was not clear as to what the loan is required for.
He explained that the application of the loan as indicated in the details obtained from the World Bank, is completely different from what the governor said the loan would be deployed to.
Hunyuyi, whose building was recently demolished in Kaduna allegedly on the orders of el-Rufai, said the $350 million facility is supposed to bedrawn over a period of four to five years.
The state government however indicated that it wishes to access $170 million from the funds in 2018 alone, Hunkuyi said adding that the loan is to be utilised by three agencies affliated to the Governorâ€™s office.
One of the agencies is the Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Projects. Why the rush, why the hurry?â€ he added.
â€œAs a representative of my people, Iâ€™ll like to say that the application of that loan is a misplaced priority. I strongly stand behind the prayers of the chairman of the committee, that this very important chamber do reject that request for the loan,â€ he said.
Senator Danjuma Lar also from Kaduna joined his colleagues to oppose the request.
â€œI met with the representatives of Kaduna State and asked what the loan was all about? What project is this loan meant for? I should know from zone one, two and three, who are the contractors responsible for the project? Where will the projects be sited? But these questions were not answered,â€
â€œI realised that the money received in Kaduna State is much and there is nothing happening in the state lately. They are busy retiring and sacking people and asking for a loan. To do what with the loan? I donâ€™t understand. If you are collecting a loan without giving a reason, I am not in support of such loan, my people are also not in support of it. Please, this loan should not be granted,â€ Lar said.
Presiding, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said Debt Management Act has provided that the National Assembly must thoroughly interrogate loan requests to ensure there is a need for the loan, and that due process is followed.
â€œAlso, to ensure that existing loan portfolio for the state or federal government, would be able to accommodate such further request, so as not to put so much pressure on that state or the federal government,â€ Ekweremadu said.
The request was put to a voice vote, and was rejected by the majority of the lawmakers.
Meanwhile Sani, speaking at a press conference after plenary, warned the federal government against circumventing the National Assembly to obtain the facility for the state.
The Debt Management Act, he said, clearly provides that any application for a loan by a state must be submitted by the president, to the National Assembly, and must be approved by both legislative chambers.