By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA – The House of Representatives said, yesterday, that governors and the Houses of Assembly of the 10 states seeking $1.858 billion external loan from development partners must endorse the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan before their own final approval.
Chairman, House Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management whose committee had been meeting with various officials of the affected states governments, gave the condition in his closing remarks to make the sessions.
The lawmaker added that the condition was necessary due to controversy trailing the submission of Federal Ministry of Finance on the allocation of the $200 million facility from the French Development Agency for Kano, Enugu, Ogun, Ondo and Plateau states.
Recall that the funds were the States’ components of the $29.6 billion External Borrowing Plan request submitted to the lawmakers by the Presidency.
He said: “What we are insisting on is that at the final nod, the Chief Executive who will sign-off on these requests must be privy and being privy, that means the Chief Executive or his Deputy must find time to attend to this Committee so that we are sure. For example, the delegation from Ondo State came to Abuja with the impression that they’ll get $57 million, in case the Ministry of Finance determines that it is only $40 million they can get, the Chief Executive needs to be aware so that he can take a decision whether or not to proceed with the facility.
“The delegation may not have that authority, that’s why we are saying that at the end of this process, the Chief Executive must be aware and must be able to sign-off properly.”
Ajayi also said that National Assembly would not shy away from doing its job, saying the power of appropriations rested with it.
“We will not cede that discretion to the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry didn’t say they had only four states in the borrowing plan. The issue of states came up during the interaction with the French development Agency component of the borrowing plan. The French Development Agency Component as requested by Mr. President, is in respect of four states. Those four states are: Kano, Enugu, Ogun and Plateau State. Now that agency had the sum of $200 million lumped together.
“In our interaction with respective states, each states made presentation to their own requests as a component of the $200 million, and in computing, we realized that we will exceed the $200 million going by the request of the states. So, we needed the Ministry to explain what its going to do. But what we said was that we were not going to cede that discretion to the ministry,”he explained.
In his remarks, the Country Director of French Development Agency, Olivier Delefosse confirmed the application of $57 million for Ondo state.
He however noted that the facility for three other states were pending.
Earlier in his remarks, Ondo State Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi stated that the $57 million from AFD was principally to execute water reticulation projects for which Federal Government had spent N5 billion and N3.5 billion by the State.
Also speaking, Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, Adewale Oshinowo who appeared before the committee said that the State’s financial profile was rising considerably.
Also speaking, the State Commissioner for Budget and Planning explained that 25 percent of the total $350 million World Bank facility will be released this year.
Reacting to most of the presentations, a member of the Committee, Musa Sarkin Adar (APC-Sokoto) wondered why some States like Lagos, Ogun and Rivers would also go for foreign loans despite the huge economic landmarks in their respective domains.
“I’m a bit worried about why states like Lagos, Ogun and Rivers will go and look for foreign loan. If states like mine, Sokoto, Ekiti, Gombe and Cross River would go to look for such loan, it’s understandable. I lived in Lagos for 16 years, and I know what Ogun State has. It’s shameful for states like yours to go looking for such loan,” he said.