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Senate panel rejects Buhari’s $700 million loan request for water project

By John Akubo, Abuja
28 October 2021   |   4:06 am
The Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt has turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s loan request for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) under the Ministry of Water Resources.

The Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt has turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s loan request for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) under the Ministry of Water Resources.

This came 24 hours after the Ministry of Health appeared before the panel to seek approval for $200 million for procurement of mosquito nets and malaria medicines.

The lawmakers, who took turns to fault the request, asked the ministry to furnish the panel with loans collected so far and projects they were tied to.

The committee chair, Senator Clifford Ordia, recalled that three different loans had been approved for various water projects.
He said: “$450 million for the ministry for water project being financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and another $6 million loan under integrated programme for development also financed by the AfDB and Gurara Water Project.

“You need to tell us what you are doing with $700 million for water projects.” The panel, therefore, resolved to summon the minister, Adamu Suleiman, to offer explanation on previous loans and how they were deployed.

In his contribution, Senator Obinna Ogba said he was against the offer, arguing that previous credits were unfelt. Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe sought to know the criteria for picking benefitting states amid his opposition to the fresh loan.

Also opposing, Senator Sani Musa advised the committee to pick a workable one after a conscientious review. Earlier, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Esther Didi Walson-Jack, who could not offer convincing explanation on previous loans, told the committee that SURWASH would last for five years, adding that $640 million was needed for the project and $60 million for capacity building.

BESIDES, the Senate Committee on Interior has said it would meet with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other stakeholders over decongestion of custodial centres and plight of awaiting trial inmates.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Kashim Shettima, dropped the hint when officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service appeared before the panel for the 2022 budget defence. He confirmed that 47,000 of the 66,000 inmates in custodial centres across the federation were awaiting trial.

The Borno State ex-governor regretted that the situation had resulted in congestion of the centres nationwide. The lawmaker added that decongesting the custodial facilities had become necessary to make them habitable and truly reformatory of inmates.

The committee said it would champion an upward review of inmates’ feeding cost from N450 to N1000 per day. The NCoS, in its 2022 estimates, proposed increment in the feeding cost from N450 to N750, citing high cost of food items. But a member of the panel, Senator Chukwuka, said the amount was “grossly inadequate to feed the inmates.”