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Reps to probe Rivers exclusion from $4.054bn, €710m loans projects

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to investigate the alleged exclusion of Rivers State from the list of state projects to be financed by $4.054 billion and £710 million fresh World Bank loans the Federal Government is currently seeking National Assembly approval.

It argued that if other states are included then Rivers State also has to be included to benefit from the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government is seeking to obtain from the World Bank.

The House, therefore, mandated its committee on Aids, Loans & Debt Management to liaise with the office of the Adviser on National Assembly Matters to the President to ascertain the veracity of the allegation and report back to the House in 14 days for further legislative action.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last week written to the National to approve $4.054 billion and £710 million external loans to fund projects captured under the 2018-2021 borrowing plan.

The House resolution to probe the exclusion of Rivers State from benefiting from the loans followed the Ado adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Solomon Bob( PDP, Rivers) at plenary.

Presenting the motion, Bob argued that Nigeria is a federation that professes equity, fairness, and social justice and to this end, there are several constitutional provisions prohibiting all or any forms of discrimination on the basis of partisan leaning, religion, place of origin, or tribe, amongst others.

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He noted that section 15(4) & (5) of the constitution provides that: “The state shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties. The state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”.

The lawmaker also noted that section 16(2) (a) & (c) of the same constitution provides that; the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring – the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development.

“The economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or a group”.

Bob observed that the foregoing provisions impose a duty on the federal government to ensure equitable distribution of resources and projects across the federation and among the states in such a manner as to eschew exclusion and ensure fairness in administering the affairs of the government of the federation.

He recalled that the federal government recently forwarded a request to the National Assembly for approval of fresh loans from the World Bank and other donor agencies for execution of various projects in all the states of the federation.

The lawmaker expressed concern that the federal government as widely reported by ThisDay Newspaper (page 57): The Tribune (page 3) all of 21st September 2021, among several other dailies, to the effect that Rivers State is the only state that is excluded from the list of state beneficiaries of projects to be executed with the loans.

Bob was “worried that the reports, if true, render the federal government’s action as not only contrary to the spirit and letters of the constitution but cruelly discriminatory against the people of the Rivers State and such discriminatory treatment is capable of creating a sense of alienation, exclusion, and discontent.

“Further worried that it is incomprehensible that Rivers State, which contributes enormously to the country’s foreign exchange earnings and through whose huge oil and gas resources a large part of the loan repayment depends, could be inexplicably excluded from benefitting from projects for which the loans are being sought.

“Again worried that the alleged exclusion is capable of being interpreted as partisan vindictiveness against the people of the state because of differences of opinion on national issues.

“Conscious that the House has a responsibility to ensure that the affairs of the federation are conducted in accordance with the constitution and the law, equity and fairness, and with an overriding responsibility to deploy its constitutional powers to ensure compliance on the part of the executive”.