$22.79bn Loan: South-east N’Assembly Caucus Protests Exclusion of Zone

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Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The South-East National Assembly Caucus, thursday protested the exclusion of all the five states in the zone in the list of beneficiaries of the $22.79 billion foreign loan approved for the federal government by the Senate last week.

The caucus made up of Senators and House members drawn from the geo-political zone and headed by the zonal leader and former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, took their grievances to the doorsteps of both the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

The group met separately with the leadership of the two chambers for over three hours and language expressed their disappointment over the total exclusion of South-east as a beneficiary of the $22.79 billion external borrowing request made by President Muhammadu Buhari.

While the Senate on Thursday, March 5, passed the $22.79 billion loan request of the federal government amid strong protest by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the House of Representatives had on Wednesday stepped down the consideration of the report to deliberate on the external borrowing request to another legislative date.

Briefing journalists after the close-door meeting with the National Assembly leadership, Ekweremadu said the reason for the meeting was to ensure equitable distribution of the loan facilities.

According to him, the caucus is satisfied with the assurances from the Senate President and the Speaker, saying that they believe the appropriate thing will be done to assuage the fears of the South-east people.

“We believe that equity should be the way for our country to make progress. Our thinking is that what the federal government presented was a borrowing plan; so, there is time for us to look at the distribution, that every part of Nigeria will have a sense of belonging. We believe every part of the country should be part of the payment and benefit from the utilisation of those funds.

“The House of Representatives will still consider the request. Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, you are required to get the approval of National Assembly to borrow; that’s why it’s tabled before the people’s parliament where every part of Nigeria is represented to have a conversation and discussion. That’s why we are trying to ensure that the proper thing is done.”