$22.7bn borrowing plan: South-East lawmakers protest Exclusion from projects

*Want Buhari, NASS Leadership to correct anomaly

By Ignatius Okorocha

Angered by what it considered a glaring marginalization of the Igbo nation in the selection of projects captured in the 22.7 billion dollars 2016-2018 borrowing plan of the Federal Government, lawmakers of

South -East extraction in the National Assembly on Thursday carried a protest to the President of the Senate,Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila respectively.

Fielding questions from journalists after their separate meeting with the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives in their offices, leader, South -East caucus in the National Assembly. Sen Ike Ekweremadu(PDP Enugu) said their meeting was not unconnected with the recent loan request approval by the Senate that excluded projects from the region.

According to Ekweremadu,the leadership of the south east caucus had approached leadership of the National Assembly on the need to address the imbalance in the distribution projects captured in the loan.

He said:” Let me thank you for giving us the opportunity to share with you, some of our concerns.

“You recall that in the last National Assembly,there was a borrowing plan presented by the government but for some obvious reasons, it was not taken,but this has been returned to the present National Assembly.

“Regrettably last Thursday, the Senate passed the borrowing plan last week and excluded the whole of south east.

“We want to use the opportunity to thank our colleagues who were present at the chambers that day, especially Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, who made disputed effort to get the matter addressed, issue of equity and equitable distribution, as most of us were not in the chamber .

“I was in Lagos attending the INEC,electoral reform meeting.

“We meet as a south-east caucus last night after consulting with our people on their feelings on the issue and decided the best approach was a constructive engagement with the leadership of the National Assembly.

“This afternoon, we had a very good conversation with both the Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives and we had a meaningful discussion.

“They showed not just concern, but commitment to addressing the issues and we are satisfied for their assurances .

“So we are believing that the matter will either be re-visited or since it has not be passed in the house, the appropriate thing will be done and then our peoples fear will be assuaged.”

He thank the Senate President Ahmad lawan and the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila for their assurances and their commitment to national unity and justice for all parts of Nigeria.

“We believe that equity should be the way for our country to make progress.

“So they are committed to these equitable distribution to the loan facilities.

“So our thinking is that what Federal Government presented was a borrowing plan so since it is still a plan, there is still opportunity for us to look at the distribution so that every part of Nigeria will have a sense of belonging on the way the money will be managed.

“Because ,we believe ultimately that every part of Nigeria will be part of the re-payment ,so if we will be part of the re- payment,it makes every sense that we also benefit from the utilisation of the funds.”

The caucus said it was optimistic that the House would correct the anomaly by citing projects not included in the Senate version of the report before passing and sending it to the upper chamber for concurrence.

He further noted that the region was concern about certain facilities including the eastern corridor of the railway from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, developing sea ports for people of south east and power projects.

The immediate deputy President of the Senate also noted that the caucus raised the exclusion of the south east in the distribution of the National Assembly Bureaucracy especially on positions Clerk to Deputy Clerks, among other positions

He,however, said the National Assembly leadership promised to address the exclusion when there would be vacancy.

Lawmakers from the region present at the news conference were Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe, Rochas Okorocha, Michael Nnachi,Rep.Nkiru Onyejiocha, among others

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