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$29 Billion Loan: Ethical and Constitutional Sin of Overlooking South East


Nigeria is basically administered in line with the provisions of the Constitution of 1999 (as amended). 

Irrespective of the manifest irregularities and imbalances that the military’s imposition of the National constitution of 1999 foisted on us especially with regards to how the North as a region got more constituencies delineated and recognized in the constitution based on some unverifiable statistical data on population density, the Supreme law for Nigeria remains the constitution. 

The current set of political office holders starting from President Muhammadu Buhari down to the local council officials are guided by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution which is binding and sacrosanct and in that constitution the oath of office administered on these officials forbids them from adopting postures, policies and projects that promotes their personal interest above national interest. 

We will proceed to reproduce the oath of office sworn to by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as provided for by the seventh schedule of the Nigerian Constitution thus: “I,  do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; …and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria. So help me God.”

In recent times since coming to office the Nigerian President has adopted certain positions that have totally negated the basic constitutional tenets of equity, equality, fairness and justice even as some top level defence appointments have overlooked the South East of Nigeria which has some of the largest population of Nigerians scattered all over.

Our attention however is on the current decision by the President to approach multilateral funding institutions for a whooping loan of $29 billion to enable the government implement some infrastructural projects but the South East of Nigeria was loudly left out as if the people are not part of the entity called Nigeria.

This ill-advised decision is unconstitutional, illegal and totally reprehensible just as it is so very unwise and it’s not in any way smart.

Flipping through some articles from Harvard Business Review chronicled in the book aptly titled “On making smart decisions”, the reader would immediately understand that the decision by the Nigerian government to exclude the South East of Nigeria from the zonesite or component parts  that would benefit from the strategic national infrastructural projects to be implemented whenever the $29 billion is found,  smacks of ethnic hatred for the people of the South East of Nigeria. 

The belated excuse that the projects are not based on zoning as offered by the ministry of finance in Abuja is puerile and laughable since it is commonly known that the states meticulously but mischievously included to benefit from the loan package are made up of persons from certain Ethnicity and States of Nigeria. 

Writing about what they call “the status-quo trap”, the authors of the aforementioned book stated thus: “we all like to believe that we make decisions rationally and objectively. But the fact is, we all carry biases, and those biases influence the choices we make. Decision makers display, for example, a strong bias toward alternatives that perpetuate the status quo.”

The constitutional provision in Chapter four, section 42 (1) that bans discrimination of any group of persons is an effective check and balance against such illegal decision by the current government to scheme out the South East of Nigeria from the areas that would clearly benefit from those projects under the proposed loan scheme which in any case would be paid by the corporate entity called Nigeria and from the commonwealth of all Nigerians. 

That Section states as follows: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.”

In the book “Fragile Peace: State Failure, Violence and development in crisis regions” edited by Tobias Debiel with Axel Klien, the authors warned that: “…the arrogance of ruling cliques is central cause of war and obstacle to development”.

There is little doubt that the current President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is organised in such an opaque fashion that certain unelected persons and family members have constituted themselves into a clique or cabal that dictates the states that should benefit from the resources belonging to all Nigerians.  The Secretary to the government of the Federation Engineer Babachir Lawal was only recently quoted in the press as accepting that he is a member of the cabal or kitchen cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari.  The Wife of President Muhammadu Buhari Mrs Aisha Buhari had told the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation that there is indeed a clique in the presidency. President Buhari has denied that his Nephew  Mamman Daura is the power behind the throne in the Presidency.  

Away from the issue of the  clique within the Nigerian Presidency, it is a fact that  Since the Nigerian government disclosed her plan to seek for the loan most observers are asking so no single project in the entire South East meets the priority of the Federal Govternment in the utilization of the $29.96B FOREIGN LOAN? 

One of the South East civil society activist even shouted that It is important to note that generations of Igbos yet unborn will be part of repaying this loan and yet, are not considered worthy as beneficiaries.

The activist continued thus “not even 2nd Niger Bridge or the death traps that Federal roads in the east have become? Not even reviving the Oji Power Station or doing something about the coal in Enugu and environs? Not even completing the Enugu International Airport. What manner of injustice is this? 

This same sentiments runs through the minds of all those who love justice because any injustice done to one is injustice to all.

In what appears a further marginalization of the South East zone, the newspapers reported analytically that the  Federal Government has left out the region in projects which President Muhammadu Buhari plans to execute with the pro-posed $29.960 billion infrastructure loan.

A breakdown of how the loan would be spent on infrastructure between 2016 and 2018 shows that none of the projects contained in the government’s document is located in the South East geopolitical zone.

President Buhari had asked the Senate to approve the loan from multilateral financial institutions to enable his administration execute critical infrastructure and other social intervention initiatives across the country. The Senate has turned the request down but the Presidency is mounting intense pressure to get the Senate to capitulate to her demand. The sidelining of the South East can in no way be explained away just as what the officials and spindoctors of the Finance Ministry have attempted to spew out. 

The Finance Ministry said the $29.960 billion loan is designed to address infrastructure deficit in the country.

 I ask, which part of Nigeria suffers the most deliberate infrastructural deficit? The South East of course suffers the worst case scenario in terms of infrastructure deficit. 

But in a statement released to journalists recently amidst criticism of the lopsided allocation of  the projects to be funded by the loan, there was no single infrastructural project allocated to the South East – an area most acutely hit by poor infrastructure and an acute shortage of various social amenities the Finance Ministry has other funny idea on how to explain away in the most flippant fashion this all disturbing issue of deliberate scheming out of South East of Nigeria.

According to the statement, issued by the Special Assistant to the Minister of Finance on Media, Mr. Festus Akanbi, infrastructural projects are allocated $18.3 billion.

The projects to be embarked upon are the Mambilla Hydro Electric Power Project ($4.8 billion), the Modernization Coastal Railway Project (Calabar-Port Harcourt-Onne Deep Sea Port Segment) valued at $3.5 billion and the Abuja Mass Transit Rail Project (Phase 2) put at $1.6 billion.

Others are the Lagos-Kano Railway Modernization Project (Lagos-Ibadan Segment Double Track) estimated at $1.3 billion and the Lagos-Kano Railway Modernization Project (Kano-Kaduna Segment Double Track) valued at $1.1 billion.

The balance of $11 billion will be expended on Eurobond ($4.5 billion), Federal Government Budget Support ($3.5 billion), Social Support for Education and Health ($2.2 billion), Agriculture ($1.2 billion), and Economic Management and Statistics ($.2 billion).

According to the statement, the borrowing has a three-year plan covering proposed projects for 2016-2018 and is expected to be phased over the three year period.

The ministry said that the borrowings are highly concessional (non-commercial), with low interest rates and long tenors.

The Federal Government affirmed that the funding is being sought from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) and the China Exim Bank.

The planned Eurobond issuance in the international capital markets, the statement pointed out is the only commercial source of funding.

When contacted, Akanbi on the apparent omission of the South East on the project allocation, he said that the loan has nothing to do with regional consideration. He said that the government would still reflect all the regions in the 2017 Budget.

Akanbi said: “I don’t have an answer to your question. This is just a Federal Government thing that was presented today. It’s not a regional thing. There are other projects like agriculture.

“These are strategic things just like intervention for three years’ programme. That does not stop the Federal Government from planning for all the regions next year and in the 2018 budget. It’s just for support. It’s not the main thing, just an ad-hoc initiative.

“The government is going to sit down and work on the 2017 budget and all the regions will be covered. It has nothing to do with regions. These are specific projects on ground”.

This is ridiculously unreasonable and totally condemnable.  President Buhari must go back to the drawing board and ensure that the critical infrastructures of the South East that have collapsed must be accommodated specially in this $29 billon loan arrangements.  Any thing less than this amounts to apartheid and should be vigorously challenged legally.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com. 




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