HOUSE of Representatives speaker Hon Femi Gbajabiamila has confirmed that debate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for a $22.79bn foreign loan was suspended because of concerns that it did not offer anything for the southeast geo-political zone.
Last month, President Buhari had written to the National Assembly asking it to approve his request for the loan, which would be used to fund infrastructural developments across the country. However, the package raised eyebrows as there was not one single project earmarked for the southeast in the loan deal, prompting the South East Caucus in the National Assembly to cry foul.
Having listened to the concerns of the lawmakers from the southeast geo-political zone after a meeting with leaders of the South-South and South-East Faith Forum, Hon Gbajabiamila agreed to suspend further discussions on the bill. He revealed that the House of Representatives was already in talks with the federal government on how the zone would be accommodated in the execution of projects with the loan.
On March 13, members of the South-East Caucus in the National Assembly, led by the senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, met separately with senate president Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon Gbajabiamila behind closed doors. Hon Gbajabiamila disclosed that the confirmation process was discontinued due to protests that the southeast geo-political zone would not benefit from the loan.
Hon Gbajabiamila said: “There has been a lot of agitation about southeast not benefiting from the loan. It is one of the reasons we haven’t considered the loan in the House and I’ve discussed with the finance minister and the director-general budget, so it is a matter that we are looking into seriously.
“I’m hoping that there will be some kind of amicable resolution, so that everybody will be carried along as equity suggests that all zones must be carried along. With the quality of members that you have and the generality of the House, we’ll work towards a fair resolution of the issue so that it leads to something that will bring us together and unite us as a country.”
He added that the House was already addressing the issues of open grazing and insecurity, among others, as raised by the clerics, challenging them to come up with alternatives and possible solutions to any issue that they were uncomfortable with. Hon Gbajabiamila also urged religious leaders to always pray for Nigerian leaders because they need prayers all the time in order to succeed.