HARD TIMES HIT N'ASSEMBLY AS BANKS RECOVER ELECTION LOANS

By NBF News
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Hard times have hit returnee members of the National Assembly, as senators and members of the House of Representatives, are groaning under the yoke of heavy bank loans taken to prosecute the April poll.

The National Assembly poll was shifted from April 2 to April 9 when it was eventually conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Checks by Daily Sun showed that a consortium of banks, operating in the National Assembly, as had been the tradition in all election years, pooled funds and gave out what had now become known as 'election loans' to willing members of the National Assembly standing for re-election.

The loans were given in three parts: Senators-N170 million, House of Representatives-N130 million while lawmakers who were not returning were allowed to access a maximum of N30 million.

It was gathered that lawmakers and the banks agreed that the loan would be re-paid from quarterly allowances and severance allowances for non-returning lawmakers. Alternative collateral for the loan for some lawmakers were houses bought from loans obtained from the same banks.

Months after the April poll, some lawmakers were faced with the prospect of 'zero quarterly allowance' until they offset the election debt to the banks.

As a result of the debt repayment scheme, most lawmakers were holed up in Abuja or their various constituencies over their inability to go on summer breaks owed in part to the repayment of earlier loans granted them by the banks. The banks, it was learnt, had allowed some 'credit-worthy' lawmakers to readjust the loan payment.

A ranking senator affected by the debt-repayment scheme confirmed that the loans were immediately deducted from 'our quarterly allowances. Right now, some of us don't even have one naira in our accounts because the first quarter allowance is not even enough to cover the loans. When we were paid our first quarter allowances, the banks immediately debited the accounts of lawmakers. They got an alert on the amount outstanding in such accounts.'

Another senator from the North-central who affirmed that lawmakers were repaying the loans obtained in April disagreed over the amount being repaid.'Some of us took loans of less than N15 million and right now, I have almost repaid my debt although I still have just some few millions to clear with them.'All I did was to readjust my loan.' The ranking lawmaker disclosed that the loan readjustment was possible because 'I'm back here.'

In a related development, lawmakers were also grappling with legal fees paid to counsel representing them at the election petition tribunals across the country.