Senator Shehu Sani Spoke Out Of Ignorance

By Ibrahim-Gwamna Mshelizza

Remarks by the Vice Chairman, Senate committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Senator Shehu Sani describing efforts by the Northern States Governors' Forum to "obtain loans" from the Islamic Development Bank, IDB, in Jedda as illegality, "was purely based on lack of the slightest knowledge about the issue because unlike what the very respectable Senator thinks, the IDB trip itself was not just done with the consent and approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance but rather, it was even the Federal Ministry of Finance that facilitated the trip and they had a representative as part of the delegation, the Northern Governors said on Monday.

Malam Isa Gusau, spokesman to Governor of Borno State and Chairman of the 19 Northern States Governors’ Forum, Kashim Shettima issued a statement in reaction to remarks by Shehu Sani published in several Newspapers on Monday morning.

Sani who represents Kaduna central senatorial district had said the northern Governors traveled on their own which made the trip illegality.

"Governors of the northern states cannot just jet out to Saudi Arabia to solicit or collect loans without following the due process of the law and the law further states that state governments and their agencies wishing to obtain external loans shall obtain federal government’s approval in principle from the Federal Ministry of Finance" Sani was quoted to have said.

In response, the Northern Governors said the Senator would perhaps have avoided an unnecessary friction with the forum if he had sorted information from the Federal Ministry of Finance or the forum.

"The Northern States Governors' Forum has the highest regard for the institution of the Senate and its 109 Senators. It is therefore, not the intention of the forum to join issues with one of its very own, the scholarly Comrade, Senator Shehu Sani, vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts. The Senator's remarks published by numerous newspapers show that he is concerned about what the Governors are doing and this is a positive development. However, if only distinguished Senator Shehu Sani had made some patient attempt to source information from the Federal Ministry of Finance or the Northern Governors' Forum concerning that very strategic trip to the Islamic Development Bank, IDB, in Jedda as led by the forum's chairman, Governor Kashim Shettima and his colleagues, Governors of Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Nassarawa States two weeks ago; he would have been sufficiently informed and would probably have no need to criticize that trip which should have avoided exchange between Governors of the 19 Northern States and a respectable Senator from the north.

Like Senator Shehu Sani said, it is true that the Federal Ministry of Finance is the body saddled with the statutory responsibility of facilitating all foreign loans and the Northern Governors were very much aware of this as well as all the necessary steps they needed to take which they actually took, sufficiently.

By way of background, the decision to seek the support of the IDB was reached at one of the Governors' meetings held at the end of September, 2015 in Kaduna which was presided by Governor Shettima. In November, 2015, Governor Kashim Shettima, acting on behalf of the forum, wrote a letter to the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja, seeking consent and request for facilitation to the IDB.

The Federal Ministry of Finance then wrote to the Islamic Development Bank in Jedda which culminated in the trip by the delegation of the Northern Governors on January 30, 2015. In fact, it was the Federal Ministry of Finance that obtained visas for the delegation of the Northern Governors through its correspondences with the IDB. The IDB had written to the Saudi Government, and requested visas for the delegation which were then issued by the Saudi embassy in Abuja with all passports only released to the Federal Ministry of Finance in the third week January, 2015.

It is also important to say that because the Northern Governors' Forum were strict on due process, a Deputy Director at the Department of International Economic Relations who is also the Desk Officer in charge of the Islamic Development Bank, IDB, at the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja, was included by the Northern Governors as part of their delegation.

The inclusion of that Deputy Director was a novel step that made the entire trip a hitch free one given the fact that the Federal Ministry of Finance was not only directly involved in all the discussions held between the Governors and top executives of the IDB but even provided all the policy guidelines required by the Governors including addressing grey areas wherever they came up.

Attached here is a group picture of the Northern Governors ’ delegation with President of the IDB, Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali which shows the representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja, Hajiya Aisha Umar, Deputy Director, Department of International Economic Relations, standing fourth from the right, at the back roll (directly behind Governor Kashim Shettima).

Perhaps it was for the fact that the IDB was very much impressed with the level of lawful compliance by the Governors that it accorded the delegation the highest attention and courtesy it accords to guests held with the highest esteem. Now that we are clear about the involvement of the Federal Government as against the incorrect claim of Distinguished Senator Shehu Sani, it will be good to also explain that the trip was not just about accessing loans.

The IDP has a wide range of opportunities through some of its components like the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD) which has been greatly accessed by some countries with poor citizens. Through the ISFD, the Bank offers grants for humanitarian interventions and in the aggressive fight against poverty through the provision of training and start-up capitals to poor citizens of member countries.

The IDB is currently engaged in aggressive poverty alleviation programs in some member countries like Afghanistan and Bagladesh whose citizens are not poorer than those in northern Nigeria. The north has the poorest persons in Nigeria based on series of human development index reports by the World Bank.

The trip was intended to get the poor citizens in the northern to benefit from these opportunities especially with our serious crisis of Boko Haram insurgency, malnutrition which result in maternal and infant mortality among others. The IDB has many opportunities and this is why the Northern Governors did not only meet with the Bank’s President, Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali and Vice President, Operations, Dr Mansur Mukhtar but also held far reaching discussions with heads of subsidiaries like the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, ITFC and the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment & Export Credit (ICIEC) among others.

Notwithstanding their commendable efforts, the Northern States Governors' Forum believe that the task of rebuilding the north is one that would require the support of all well meaning Nigerians, including the distinguished Senator Shehu Sani whose strategic committee, has a vital role to play in helping the forum to actualize part of its firm determination to deploy lawful strategies aimed at accelerating the recovery, growth and development of the northern Nigeria for the benefit of its comparatively disadvantaged and increasing population" the Northern Governors said.

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