So many issues have come to the front burner and in national conversation platforms concerning the $75 million loan requested by Edo State government from the World Bank, since it was sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and passed by the Senate.
The news of the loan triggered controversies such that interests groups within the state came out to protest against the approval by the authorities, especially the Senate, which finally passed the request last Thursday , August13, 2015, following a letter of request from President Muhammadu Buhari seeking approval of the facility.
It was reported that pensioners and some employees of the state, particularly the local government workers and some pressure groups protested against approving the loan. Their protest, notwithstanding, the senators went ahead to consider the single-prayer report of the ad hoc Committee on Local and Foreign Debt presented by Sen. Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) and approved the $75 million. While contributing to the debate, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi Central), said that Edo State was qualified, having met the conditions set by the federal government and World Bank. Senate leader, Ali Ndume, supported the motion for the approval of the loan and encouraged other states with genuine needs to take advantage of such low interest loans, rather than patronising local commercial banks.
Only Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) expressed the misgivings of Edo people about the loan. He said that on the day the Senate received the letter from Mr. President, he got over 2,000 text messages and emails, “out rightly, the people have said that they do not want the loan.”
Urhoghide, argued that although the loans would bring about more gains for the people of the state, there was need to accede to the yearnings of the Edo people and verify the misgivings expressed by them.
According to the Senator, “the first tranche of the loan was used for projects that were not visible.” He urged that the second tranche be judiciously utilised to clear the doubts of the people.
Tagged: “Edo State Development Policy Operation II, DPO, Credit Facility of $75 million from the World Bank,” the general principles or objective of the loan, states accordingly, to consolidate on the gains made in key sectors of the economy of the state from the first tranche of the facility granted in 2013. Similarly, the funds from the facility will be used to finance key programmes of the state and stimulate internally generated revenue, develop key infrastructure that will attract private investment and of course, increase employment opportunities. In addition, the World Bank development policy operation is a budget support facility used to finance budget gaps that governments face in implementing their annual budgets. Again, there are strict criteria normally presented for intending borrowers to fulfil before they are granted to them.
The fact that the state met the requirements, which most Nigeria state governments failed, except Lagos, it is gratifying that Edo has undertaken critical policy and institutional reforms geared towards achieving key development objectives. Among these includes, public finance management reforms, budget planning, audit reforms and institutional strengthening, tax reforms and service delivery. It has also shown commitment to funding infrastructure and stimulates economic growth, commitment to creating employment and expenditure management as well as public procurement reforms and expenditure management and open government, including publication of government data on approved channels and public disclosure mechanism for budget, financial year statements and audit reports among others.
We agree that this is a fantastic government policy framework, but what one of the noticeable gaps in the whole exercise is the refusal of the lawmakers to conduct a public hearing to get views from stakeholders, especially Edo people, most of who were represented by various interest groups that protested against the loan. That is why we align with Senator Urhoghide and other senators, who were against the approval of the loan by the Senate.
That the $75 million loan is the second tranche of a $225 million Development Policy Operation loan, may not necessarily be the concern of the people, what is uppermost in their minds is that an administration which has barely six months left in government, is seeking a loan. Is it not an attempt to leave subsequent administrations in the state with a debt burden? Besides, most of the funds collected by the states in Nigeria usually end up in private pockets instead of meaningful projects.
We therefore call on the current government in Edo State to be prudent in deploying the funds. The government must accede to issues raised during the protest and address them promptly. It must be incorruptible in spending this very important facility , projects must be visible this time around, arrears owed pensioners, and other categories of Edo workers must be paid, among other things, since it is only by these efforts that the loan can be meaningful to the people.


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