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Buhari Shocks Osinbajo, Others

Tony Ailemen, Abuja
A mild drama played out yesterday at the commencement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa as President Muhammadu Buhari arrived and took his seat 10 minutes at the Council Chambers before 10am scheduled for resumption.
President Buhari shocked his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and other cabinet members by arriving at the Council Chambers of the State House at 9.51am for the Federal Executive Council meeting scheduled to begin at 10.00am.
The Vice President, Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari, National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno and 19 ministers were yet to turn up when Buhari arrived for the meeting.
But the President, after a quick glance at the few ministers who had taken their seats, quickly remarked that he had arrived too early for the FEC meeting.
“I came too early” he remarked. He however proceeded with the meeting by calling for the recitation of the National Anthem and the usual Christian and Muslim prayers after which the meeting began.
The Vice President arrived about five minutes to the actual time and other ministers followed and were admitted through the backdoor as the main door had been shut in consonance with protocol.
It was the first time such drama was playing out under the current administration.
THE UNION recalled that some ministers were shut-out of the Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting for coming late after the usual scheduled time under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s early days in office.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to improve road network in Lagos, FEC yesterday approved a $200 million loan for the state government to complete road projects in the state.
Briefing journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting which was chaired by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the loan would allow the state government to complete some of it’s very ambitious projects like the 61-kilometre 10-lane expressway from Lagos to Badagry, which also includes some 7-kilometer light roads.
He said it will also enable the state government to completely rehabilitate the inner roads in Apapa in addition to some other major works going on.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, it will be recalled, had on October 24, 2013 written to the National Assembly to include the Lagos State Development Policy Operation (DPO) of $200 million into the 2012-2014 Medium Term Borrowing Plan (MTBP), stating that the fund formed part of the credit of $600 million granted to the Lagos State Government in 2010 for implementation in three batches.
But Fashola, while speaking blamed the delay on political differences between the state and the immediate past administration.
According to him the loan was approved in 2010 by the Federal Government with an initial moratorium of 10 years and a repayment period of 40 years.
He regretted that due to the branding of Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa at the moment, the terms and conditions of the loan had changed with a reduction of moratorium period to only five years, repayment period to 25 years and an imposition of 2.5 percent interest rate.
He said: “The point to make is that this is not a new loan, it’s a segment if a programme of developmental initiatives and it was approved in 2010 with a total sum of $600 million for Lagos State to be disbursed in tranches of 200 million each year starting from 2011-2013. But it suffered delays as a result of partisan political differences in the last dispensation. After the first tranche was disbursed, there was a freeze on the second tranche.
“The initial agreements we had with the World Bank was a 40-year loan, a 10-year moratorium, 0.5 percent interest. But because of the delays that subsequently characterised the partisan interference that took place, our profile as a nation also changed; we had become a bigger economy so money was being lent to us not now as a highly indebted nation anymore. So by the time this one was approved now because of the delays, we had lost the opportunity of 40 years as it is now a loan of 25 years, the moratorium has reduced to five years instead of 10 years. The interest rate had gone up to 2.5 percent.
“But what is still heart-warning about it is that it helps to finance infrastructure. When we look at road construction and the value chain that people benefit from it, those shops that sell iron rods, artisans, craftsmen, that means, really globally, economies are being reflated and infrastructure defines how big a nation can grow; it is the defining line between poor and rich nations”, he added.
Fashola, in whose era as Lagos State governor the first tranche of the loan was received, also expressed gratitude that the federal government had given approval for the loan to complete the numerous road and other projects that were started.
He also noted that the resolve by the World Bank to provide the money was a testament that the foremost financial institution had confidence in the Federal Government and its current fiscal measures.
“It’s is heartwarming that this administration has taken it on, and again fast track it so that the Lagos State government can continue its developmental programmes of infrastructure renewal; taking people out of poverty, reducing inequality because that’s the way to really distribute wealth in a society.
“And that the World Bank has had the confidence now to lend sums in tantamount to sub-national government is a testament of financial discipline, strong governmental structures and the establishment of institutions, rather than the World Bank writing programmes for those states,” according to the minister.
Answering question from newsmen, the former Lagos governor disclosed that the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister in the past administration, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had confided in him that the second tranche of the loan was frustrated because some PDP governors were complaining that only the then opposition states were benefiting.
Asked whether partisanship interpretation would not equally be given to the current approval, the Minister replied that as at the time the first approval was given, Lagos State was duly qualified for the loan.

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