The $22.7bn Foreign Loan: Why is South-East always marginalised?

There are no answers as to why the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari entrenched the penchant of always excluding the South-East geo-political zone from benefiting from most of its projects and appointments, and especially from the current foreign loan being sought by the administration. When President Buhari presented the Federal Government’s $29.96 billion External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan for 2016-2018, the zone was missing from projects listed against it.

Again, glaring marginalization of the zone cropped up in the selection of projects captured in the adjusted $22.7 billion Borrowing Plan which was represented by the administration. Details of the loan, which has already been approved by the Senate and awaiting the concurrent approval of the House of Representatives shows that the South-West zone got $200 million, South-South $4.27 million, North-West $6.372 million, North-East $300 million, while North-Central got $6.531 million. The remaining $5.854 million was listed for general expenses.

A break down shows that the Power Transmission Project in Lagos and Ogun states would receive $200 million, East-West Road Project $800 million, while the Coastal Railway Project (Calabar-Port Harcourt-Onne Deep Sea Port Segment) got $3.47 billion.

Equally, federal government’s Multi-Sectoral Crises Recovery Programme in the North-East was allocated $200 million, Integrated Social Protection, Basic Health, Education, Nutrition Services and Livelihood Restoration Project (North-East) allocated $100 million, while Lake Chad Basin Commission (Multinational Project) (North-East), would get $13 million.

Also, Kano-Lagos Railway Modernisation Project (Kano-Ibadan segment double track) was allocated $5.53 billion, Vocational Training in the power sector got $50 million for work at FCT, Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Plateau, Niger, Enugu, Kaduna and Cross River.

Similarly, the Kaduna State Economic Transformation Programme got $35 million; National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructural Backbone Project (NICTIB) phase II, $328.1 million (for projects in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Akure, Maiduguri, Lokoja, Kaduna, Akwanga, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina); Health System Project for Katsina, $110 million; Rural Water Supply and Sanitation project in the North-East and Plateau, $150 million; while Development of Nationwide Mining Industry got $150 million.

In the North-Central zone, the Staple Crops Processing Zone support project (Kogi) got $100 million; Greater Abuja Water Supply Project (FCT), $381 million; Abuja Mass Rail Transit Project – phase 2 ($1.25 billion); Mambila Hydro-Electric Power Project ($4.8 billion); and Taraba Integrated Programme for Development and Adaption to Climate Change ($6 million).

After the President of the Senate landed the gavel signifying approval of the Senate for the loan, it became clear that the South-East had been excluded from the loan request.

Recall that apart from the current external loan request, the national budgets since 2015 and appointments made since then have shown that the South-East is not in any reckoning under the current administration. Nigerians vividly remember the 5% – 97% appointment structure and the non-appointment of officers of South-East extraction to head any of the several security apparatuses in the country.

Continuing on the path of marginalizing the South-East has befuddled even the members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) form the zone. It should be noted that apart from prison (Correctional Center) facilities, other federal projects in the zone since President Buhari came into office, have continued to receive only neglect.

For example, although President Buhari revoked the initial federal government plan for a Public Private Partnership process for the 2nd Niger Bridge, the bridge is not strictly a South-East zone project. It is sitting on the boundary between the South-East and South-South zones. Other projects like the Enugu-Onitsha; Enugu-Aba-Port Harcourt expressway project, are mere propaganda project being executed at snail speed, compared to similar project in the other geo-political zones.

Again, federal government’s handling of the reconstruction of facilities at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, did not follow the pattern of the rehabilitated Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Before the closure of the NIA Airport for rehabilitation, government carried out serious remediation of the Kaduna and Minna Airports and Abuja-Minna and Abuja-Kaduna highway. Also, government purchased several coaches to convey passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna railway line and provided armed escort operating on helicopter for the security of every rail movement on route. It also beefed up security along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, in addition to providing special transport services for Abuja or Kaduna bound passengers at the Kaduna and Minna airports. There was no similar gesture for the South-East as a result of the current rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

Similarly, the 9th Mile-Oturkpo-Makurdi federal highway which was constructed in 1076, has suffered worst neglect as that important national road corridor only witnesses announcement of award of contracts which never saw the light of the day. Also, the Onitsha Sea Port, dredging of the River Niger and preponderance of checkpoints manned by security personnel only collect money from commuters, rather than tracking and preventing crimes.

Although state governors, senators and other key stakeholders in the South-East zone have kicked against the current exclusion from the national borrowing plan, there is no indication that the federal government would budge. It would be no surprise that the Buhari’s government would amend the plan to include projects for the zone simply to fulfill all righteousness. Such projects would not be executed afterwards. This has been the scenario with federal budgets where government claimed inability to meet projected capital receipts as alibi to douse tension in the zone.

It is hoped that this time, the Senate and the entire National Assembly will keep to the promise of according positive attention to the protests of the South-East Governors Forum equally raised serious concerns over this marginalization, considered as yet another too many.

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