The South east Caucus in the National Assembly on Thursday protested the exclusion of projects in the region from the recently approved $22.7bn foreign borrowing plan of the federal government approved by the senate.
The group led by former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu took their protest to the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Senator Ekweremadu who briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting with the two principal officers, said it was a meaningful discussion as the National Assembly leadership has not only shown concern but also showed commitment to addressing the anomaly.
According to him, “We are here to share with you some of our concerns. You recall that in the last National Assembly the government presented a borrowing plan and for some obvious reasons, especially issue of exclusion, it was not taken. So this has been returned in this present Assembly.
“Regrettably last Thursday the senate approved the borrowing plan which excluded the whole of south east. We like to use this opportunity to thank our colleagues who were in the chamber that day, especially Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who made spirited effort to get the matter addressed, the issue of the equity and equitable distribution.
“Most of us were not in the chambers. I was in Lagos attending the INEC retreat on electoral reforms and most of our colleagues were in one national function or the other. We commend him for the efforts he made and other of our colleagues who were there during the conversation.
“So we met as a caucus of the South East national assembly last night after consulting with our people and getting their feelings regarding this issue. We decided that the best approach will be a constructive engagement with the National Assembly leadership.
“So this afternoon, we had a very good conversation with both the Senate President and also the Speaker of the House of Representatives. We are here to report that we had meaningful discussions.
They showed not only concern but commitment to addressing these issues and they are satisfied with those assurances so we believe that that matter will either be revisited or since it has not been passed in the House that the appropriate thing will be done and then our peoples fear will be assuaged.
So we will like to thank the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for those assurances and commitment to national unity of this country and also justice to all parts of Nigeria.
We believe that equity should be the way for our country to make progress. So they are committed to this equitable distribution of the loan facilities.
Our thinking is that what the Federal Government presented was the borrowing plan, since it is still a borrowing plan, there is opportunity for us to look at the distribution so that every part of Nigeria will have a sense of belonging with the way the loan will be managed. Because we believe ultimately that every part of Nigeria will be parts and parcel of the repayment.
So if we are going to be parts and parcel of repayment, it makes every sense that we should also benefit from the utilization of those funds and we are concerned about certain facility including the eastern corridor railway from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, he said.
The group further said it is concerned about the provision of access to the sea for the south east; developing seaports in our area and also power projects. So we hope that by the time the matter is addressed some of the fears of our people would have been addressed and our own concerns will also be addressed.
The south east caucus also stated that it took up the issue of non-inclusion of the region in the national Assembly bureaucracy, pointing out that a look at the national assembly bureaucracy shown that the south east was also excluded from the Clerk of the National Assembly to Deputy Clerk; Clerk of the Senate; Clerk of the House; DG of NILDS and also Chairman and Secretary of National Assembly Service Commission, the same thing with the public complaint Commission.
However, the group also informed that the leadership of the National Assembly showed concern and have agreed to address it as soon as vacancies occurred in all these positions.
The group reiterated that it had a very useful meeting thanked the Senate President and Speaker for their understanding and said they were looking forward to the National Assembly leadership commitment which have been expressed to them.