Senate Committee Rejects Buhari’s $700m Loan Request for Water Project

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*Invites minister for details of previous water projects loan

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt has rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s $700 million loan request for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) under the Federal Ministry of Water Resources .
This is coming 24 hours after the Ministry of Health appeared before the Committee to seek approval for $200 million for procurement of mosquito nets and Malaria medicines.

The Committee members who took turn to fault the loan for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) asked the Ministry to furnish the Committee with update of loans collected so far for the Water Projects in the Ministry.

According to the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Clifford Ordia stated three different loans have been approved for various water projects.
He said:” $450 million was approved for the Ministry for water project being financed by Africa Development Bank and another $6 million loan under integrated program for Development also financed by Africa Development Bank and Gurara water project.
“You need to tell us what you are doing with $700 million for water projects.”

The Committee therefore agreed to invite the Minister of Water Resources, Adamu Suleiman, to appear before it to give explanation on the loans and state of loans collected so far.

Speaking in the same vein, Senator Obinna Ogba said he is against granting approval for the loan because some loans had been collected for water projects in the past and yet to see result.

His words: “This loan, I don’t support this one again, enough is enough”.
Also opposing the loan, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe requested for the criteria for selecting benefiting states adding that details provided by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry is not enough to justify the loan.

The first time Senator asked, “what is the criteria for selecting benefiting states, the details you are providing is not enough, what are the projects you want to do with $640 million and how many water are you going to do?

“You are giving each state $3 million to develop personnel capacity. do we need loan to do this function, you mean all states can’t do that on their own?”.

On his part, Senator Sani Musa, advice the Committee to look at all the loan requests and pick the one that is necessary.
According to him: “We should look at this loan and take the one that are necessary and we should abandon the one that are not necessary. We need to look at it very critically.”

Also speaking, Senator Brima Enagi protested against the request for $700 million loan for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) demanding for state of Gurara project from the Ministry.

Earlier in her remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs Esther Didi Walson-Jack who was unable to give explanation to the previous loans approved for water projects told the Committee that Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) will last for five years.

According to her, $640 million out of the proposed loan will be used for the Project while the remaining $60 million will be used for capacity building.

The Permanent Secretary said the proposal was negotiated with World Bank in April, 2021 and was approved at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on August 11, 2021.

She listed the seven states to benefit from the $700 million World Bank loan to include Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, and Plateau with counterpart funding of $175 million.

Walson-Jack added that the programme will deliver improved water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to 2,000 schools and health care facilities and assist 500 Communities to achieve open defecation free status.