By Naomi Sharang
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday requested the Senate to urgently consider and approve Federal Government’s 2016-2018 External Borrowing Rolling Plan of $6.93 billion.
The rolling plan, according to him, is to enable the government commence the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-East, provide for the poor and tackle rail projects across the country.
The president made the request in a letter to the Senate dated April 21, 2017 and read by President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, at plenary.
Buhari said: “China Eximbank has approved our request for a loan to execute the Lagos-Kano railway modernisation project for a sum of $1.23 billion.
“The Chinese have also informed us that the approval of the Lagos-Kano railway modernisation project (Kano-Kaduna Segment) at $1.15 billion and the Coastal Railway Project at $3.47 million are imminent,”
He explained that the funds for the project were available under the China-Africa Fund but were limited, adding that loan applications from African countries were funded based on first-come-first-served basis.
“Therefore there is an urgent need for us to sign these loans as soon as they are approved or we might lose out in the event that we delay,” the president said.
“We are already in the process of completing the concession of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri Line to immediately link the eastern part of the nation.
“We fully intend to source further concessionary funding to ultimately upgrade this critical line to high speed standard gauge line.
“This project forms part of our overall plan to resuscitate the rail transport across the nation and thereby drive inclusive growth,” he said.
The president said that the request was based on the need to consolidate the relative peace in the North-East.
“The situation as you are aware has changed dramatically and introduces even more urgency to the situation in the zone than ever before.”
He said that the capture and destruction of the stronghold of Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest was welcomed news.
However, he added that the recent unfortunate incident of the bombing of an Internally Displaced Camp (IDP) camp by mistake, and with loss of civilian lives brought to the fore the need to resettle the people.
Buhari said to achieve that, there was need for urgent tackling of the identified projects in the spirit of reconstruction and rehabilitation, and also to create jobs.
According to him, the World Bank has also approved a sum of $575 million to assist the Federal Government in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.
“The fund is also to assist the Federal Government in the procurement of vaccines and other ancillary facilities for national routine immunisation to eradicate polio after the outbreak in the North-east in 2016.
“ I am requesting your early consideration of the proposed World Bank-Assisted 500 million dollars loan to help expand the assistance and support to the poor and most vulnerable, especially in this difficult time.”
The president said that given the current state of the economy and the need to adequately address infrastructural deficiencies, it was imperative for the legislature and executive to work together to get the economy out of recession.
“Distinguished Senate, an expeditious consideration and approval of this request will go a long way in bringing stability to the North-east.
“It will also make for improvement on the infrastructure and by extension, a great improvement in the economy and livelihood of our people.”