The Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA) has applauded Federal Government decision to suspend its planned borrowing of 22.7 billion dollars external loan for infrastructural projects.
The Chamber’s Vice President, Mr Chinedu Nwonu made the position of the group known in a statement issued in Onitsha on Tuesday.
Nwonu noted that the suspension was a better opportunity for the government to review the imperative of the loan as well as review how such facility would be used subsequently.
He said that the distribution of the listed infrastructural projects for the proposed loan lent credence to the alleged lopsidedness and the exclusion of South-Easterners since the advent of this administration.
“The exclusion of South-East in the mainstream projects outlined for execution leaves so much to be desired since about 35 projects listed to be executed cut across different sectors of the economy, with infrastructure given the top notch,” he said.
Nwonu recalled that the South-East zone was also excluded from the first Chinese loan for the railway corridor, which cost more than 5 billion dollars.
The vice president said it was no longer news that there were massive infrastructural deficit in the South-East which were enough to warrant that major projects should be listed for execution in the zone.
“While many infrastructural projects have been initiated, executed and commissioned in other parts of the country, the few insignificant projects in the South East are still under construction since the last five years.
“This calls for worry and overtly supports, if not validate, the ante of marginalisation that has upped in the South-East in recent years,” he stressed.
The vice president, therefore, urged the House of Representatives to stand down their assent to the loan and should ideally not entertain its debate on the floor of the house, in the interest of equity.
He said the economic funding policies and borrowings should reflect the provisions of the ‘Fiscal Responsibility Act’ as well as the Constitution to favour every section of the country.
Nwonu argued that since the resources (taxes and oil revenue) of the country would be used to repay the loan, excluding the South-East could best be described as “sacrilegious”.
“Since every part of the country must repay the loan, every part of the country must benefit from its proceeds,” he added.
Newsmen recall that the Nigerian Senate had approved the 22.7 billion dollar loan request earlier presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on March 16 announced the suspension of the external borrowing plans citing the current realities in the global economic landscape as the reason.