News Column

Boko Haram - U.S.$1 Billion Loan Request Suffers Setback

July 21, 2014

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Muhammad Bello

The plan by the federal government to seek foreign loan of $1 billion loan (about N165 million) to help in procuring more military equipment to further the fight against the insurgency of Boko Haram may suffer some setback as the Senate has adjourned for two months to enable the lawmakers go on summer break.

President Goodluck Jonathan had last week written the Senate seeking its approval for a foreign loan to enable it tackle more decisively, the menace of the terrorist group.

The vacation of the lawmakers is bound to slow down the process of getting the loan approved. And even when the lawmakers resume, the approval of the loan may face some tough time from the opposition lawmakers, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC), which has asked the National Assembly to properly scrutinise the puzzling request by President Jonathan.

The party further alleged that the Jonathan administration is spending or setting aside an average of N2 billion to impeach each governor of the APC states.

It said the federal government has no business borrowing money if it had accounted for the $20 billion in oil funds or plugged the official stealing of 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said even if the missing oil fund was only between $10 and $12 billion as admitted by the federal government, the amount represents more than 10 times the fund which the federal government is now seeking to borrow under conditions that are yet unknown.

It described as disingenuous and sheer blackmail the argument that the money is for national security or that it would facilitate the release of the over 200 schoolgirls who were abducted about 100 days ago.

"That argument is hollow. In the first instance, trillions of naira have been allocated yearly - in the past few years - for security and defence, yet the fight against the insurgents rages on with deadly consequences. "Secondly, the only reason the school girls have remained in captivity is the sheer cluelessness and incompetence on the part of the Jonathan administration, which waited for all of 19 days before even admitting that the girls were kidnapped in the first instance.

"They must also inquire from the administration why it should be borrowing 1 billion dollars when it has yet to account for the missing 20-billion-dollar oil money, plug the daily stealing of 300,000 bpd and unravel the massive frauds that have hallmarked the tenure of this Administration (pension fraud, oil subsidy scam, and Malabu fraud, amongst others.

If after all the scrutiny, the National Assembly still feels it must approve the loan, so be it, but it (National Assembly) must know that its own integrity and credibility are on the line," APC said. The party also reminded Nigerians that the Nigerian civil war, which lasted three years, was prosecuted by the government without resorting to any external borrowing, due to competent and transparent management of the nation's economy.

"On the contrary, trillions of Naira have been pumped into the Boko Haram war in the past five years, and Nigerians still do not have any indication of how soon the insurgency will end or what happened to the huge allocated funds. Instead, what the tax payers are being asked to do is to shell out more funds to finance the incompetence and corruption of a reckless administration, whose officials fly around the world in jets that burn billions of Naira but cannot allow them to be probed by the National Assembly," it said.

APC wondered why the Jonathan administration that had roundly pilloried. Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, when he alerted Nigerians to the need to adequately equip and motivate our men and women in uniform, has now turned around to admit that the military needs modern hardware to fight the insurgency. The party said it aligns with those who have cautioned the National Assembly against giving a blank cheque to the administration, due to its inability to account for the past budgetary allocations for security and defence, as well as its sheer cluelessness and palpable incompetence.

Speaking in the same vein, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has warned the PDP-led federal government against the dangerous tactics of polarizing the country along fault lines as a means of diverting the attention of Nigerians from its ineptitude and apathetic posture to corruption and insecurity.

Reacting to a report in a weekly paper alleging that a former Russian spy has linked the APC to terrorists and extremists, the former vice-president said these sponsored allegations by the PDP administration would not help the country.

He said no responsible government should seek to create division, suspicion and animosity among its citizens by linking the opposition leaders with terrorist activities or accusing them of harbouring extremists.

According to Atiku in signed statement yesterday, the PDP has officially and publicly through its National Publicity Secretary, labelled APC the "Islamic Brotherhood Party of Nigeria" and the "Janjaweed Party", nomenclatures he said, were borrowed from abroad and did not in any way or form exist in Nigeria. He explained that these problems affect all ordinary Nigerians, regardless of their religion or ethnicity or section of the country they come from.

He maintained that the PDP tactics of divide and rule is a reflection of desperation because the citizens are openly clamouring for change.

Similarly, the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has advised the federal government to explore trade by barter option in its effort to step up military hardware and train military personnel instead of piling up debts for the country.

The APC and leader of opposition in the green chamber through a statement issued by his media aide, Wasiu Olanrewaju-Smart, yesterday in Abuja expressed dismay at President Jonathan's penchant for loans when the country has sovereign wealth fund, reserve and excess oil revenue.

He said: "The federal government by setting an illegal benchmark has been creaming off about $30 per barrel of our crude oil sales which it puts in an illegal excess crude account. If it insists on cash it should reach into that illegal account. Again it also set up the Sovereign Wealth Fund, a component of which it described as future generation account, arguing that to incur a further $1billion loan at whatever interest rate, will be one loan too many for our future generation to pay off and the answer is a capital NO!!!"

Gbajabiamila also said: "The request for $1 billion loan by the President after the N3 trillion allocated to Defence in 3 years with nothing to show for it is evidence that the President and his advisers regard Nigerians as imbeciles (which they are not)."

The lawmaker advised his colleagues in the National Assembly to restrain themselves from granting the "perfidious request" and implored the federal government to try exchanging oil for military hardware like other needy countries have done in the past if truly Nigeria has weak military equipment considering the country's previous budgets for defence.

He further called for a comprehensive audit of what has happened to all the money allocated by the National Assembly to defence in the last three years, stressing that "this must be a condition precedent before a kobo is ever approved again".

"Secondly, we have the MTEF which laid out government expenditure framework for the next 3 years. We must stack this alongside this recent request and see if there is any place for such.

"Thirdly, what was the amount of debt forgiveness or forbearance given to Mohammed Abacha? That amount if any must be stacked against the loan sought to determine whether granting same makes any sense.

"Fourthly, what are the conditions for the loan? What is the repayment schedule and who bears the burden? "Fifthly, what did the recently held World Economic Forum in Abuja cost government and what were the economic derivatives for government to now turn around months later to ask for a $1billion loan.

"Sixthly, it was reported that government had set up a forensic audit to investigate the alleged missing $20 billion from government coffers. This in spite of the fact that the finance minister whilst disputing the quantum of the money admitted she could not account for $10 billion. Where are we with the investigation? "These are questions begging for answer and the National Assembly must get clear answers to them before even considering the request not to talk of rejecting it," he said.

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Source: AllAfrica

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