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Buhari Queries Diversion Of Foreign Loan

President Muhammadu Buhari Has Asked For Answers On The Diversion Of A Loan Secured For Rail Purposes While Also Asking Rich Nigerians To Gird Their Loins For Greater Roles In Nation Re-Building

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday queried the virement of foreign loans obtained by the Federal Government for rail projects for other purposes. To this effect, the President has asked the Ministry of Transport for detailed explanation.

Speaking at the end of a presentation on the Ministry of Transport by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, at the Presidential Villa, President Buhari said it was disappointing to find that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved from one project to another.

The President also called on Nigeria’s elite to be prepared to contribute more meaningfully towards helping the country overcome its current challenges. A statement signed by President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, quotes the president as saying: “I hope that due process was followed before such diversions were carried out.

Taking money from one project to another has to be done properly”. President Buhari was reacting to the specific instance of the diversion of a substantial part of the loan of $1.005 billion from the Chinese Exim Bank, obtained for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos to Kano but which was moved elsewhere. The Permanent Secretary had informed the President that only $400 million of the loan is still with the Ministry of Finance.

The President also regretted that government had, over the years, failed to meet its counter-part funding obligation on some projects, leading to abandonment of such projects. He added that there was a clear need to streamline, harmonize, and prioritize on-going projects in the transportation sector.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry also briefed the President on other challenges facing the transport and maritime sectors such as encroachment on railway land, lack of security on inland waterways and the confused nature of agreements between the Nigeria Ports Authority and ports concessionaires.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement signed by the President’s special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the president called on the country’s elite to be prepared to contribute more meaningfully towards helping overcome current challenges. The statement quotes the President as speaking when he received outgoing President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Donald Kaberuka, at the Villa, yesterday.

President Buhari said that privileged and influential citizens clearly have to do more now than in the past to help the country deal successfully with its economic and security problems. “With the shock of falling oil prices, lack of revenues, and insecurity, the Nigerian elites must now wake up and provide the right guidance in their communities, and also lead the economy on the right path more than they used to do,’’ the President said.

President Buhari also told Mr. Kaberuka that his administration would welcome more support from the AfDB for projects in versatile sectors like agriculture that could easily be explored to create more jobs for unemployed Nigerians. “An impression has been erroneously created that we are a rich country but looking at the economic profile of the country today, you will see that that is not necessarily the case. “Our social services have to be seriously rehabilitated.

We need urgent attention on areas like education and health services, not only in the north eastern part of the country, but all round the country. “We will fall back on institutions like the AfDB for support in generating employment. We have vast potentials in the agricultural sector that can be explored to create more jobs. “We also have small businesses that need funds for expansion,” the President told Mr. Kaberuka and other AfDB officials”, he said.

The outgoing AfDB President informed President Buhari that some development institutions like the World Bank, German Development Bank and the European Development Bank had already indicated their readiness to provide long term loan facilities to small businesses in Nigeria.

Mr. Kaberuka assured the President that the AfDB would always support economic projects in Nigeria. Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Nigeria’s immediate past Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, will replace Kaberuka next month. The AfDB currently has a strong capital base of 4.8 billion U S dollars.

-Tony Ailemen, Abuja

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