Reps Oppose $4.427.9B Foreign Credit Bid
ABUJA, Oct 19, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives today stood down debate on the amendment to the 1999 Constitution until Thursday even as it suspended consideration of a request by President Goodluck Jonathan seeking the approval of the National Assembly for a foreign loan of $4.427.9 billion. The constitution amendment bill was slated for debate today however, the inability of lawmakers to access the gazetted copy of the 1999 amended constitution forestalled continuation of work on the constitution which commenced last Thursday. Speaker Dimeji Bankole who presided over the plenary thereafter ruled that it be stood down to give time for gazetted copies to be circulated to lawmakers. Meanwhile, intense opposition from majority of the members yesterday forced Speaker Bankole to adjoin debate on the request sent to the House by President Goodluck Jonathan seeking the parliament’s green light to borrow $4.455 billion. Over US$300million of the said loan had earlier in the year been approved by the National Assembly, with an outstanding of about US$507million, which was approved in installments. The debate was shelved by the House after a majority kicked against its terms and the negative implications for the country's economy. President Jonathan had last week written to the House seeking for its approval pursuant to section 21 of the Debt Management Office Act to borrow a total sum of $4.455 billion from 7 Foreign Development Agencies to fund power and sundry projects. He wrote that, the outstanding $2.455 billion if approved will go for Gas Pipe Line projects to shore up the Country’s electricity generating capacity among other projects. “I write to draw your attention to the 2010 External borrowing plan which I forwarded to the National Assembly in April, 2010 for your consideration along with the 2010 budget proposals, which was graciously approved by the Senate and the House resolutions 85 of Tuesday 27th April, 2010 and 92 of Thursday 22nd April, 2010 respectively”, the letter read in part. According to the President, “The borrowing plan was segmented for purposes of comprehension into three broad category namely; projects that had been negotiated and those that were being appraised as well as the pipeline projects/programmes. “The sum total for the negotiated projects stood at $1.854 billion and that of the appraised project was $1,073.2 million while $2.415 billion represented the sum of Pipe line Projects”, the letter reads on. The there category of projects come to a total of $5.242 billion”, the President wrote. He explained that, “You may please recalled that in consideration of the 2010 budget in conjunction of the afore-mention borrowing plan, the National Assembly graciously approved only the International Development Association (IDA) component of the negotiated projects in the sum of $ 915.million out of $1,073.2 million for appraised projects and $2.415 billion for pipeline projects the entire balance now remaining for National Assembly’s approval is $4.427billion”, adding that, “There is no doubt that the approval given on the component of the negotiated project would impact tremendous on the provision of critical infrastructure which the country is in dire need to jump start the engine of economic growth and improve the living standards of the citizens.” Jonathan noted that: “It is pertinent to add that the proposed loans are highly concessionary credit facilities which the country needs to access in order to develop our infrastructure and create employment opportunities. “I have directed the Honourable Minister of Finance to effectively monitor the various projects to ensure that the funds are judiciously utilized and that there is value for money”. But the request did not go down well with majority of the members who vehemently rejected.
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa (ACN, Lagos) while kicking against the request said the proposal must not be approved. "Our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has warned us not to return to foreign borrowing, so we must be careful the way we are passing resolutions. We know how much suffering it took us to pull out of the Paris Club creditors, so there is a need to be careful," Dabiri-Erewa said. Also towing the same way, Chairman Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Ita Enang described most of the projects in the borrowing plan, earmarked for funding as "unnecessary", and queried the Presidency for failing to account for all the monies withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account and other accounts. Several other members opposed the motion, which was read by the Leader of the House except a few who sought its express approval by the lawmakers.