Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Protests as Reps approve $1.56bn loan for NNPC

A proposed forward “sale agreement” loan of $1.56bn by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation split members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Some members had kicked against the loan and protested loudly in the chambers, urging the House not to approve it.
But, a majority decision supported the loan bid.
The report on the loan was presented to the House by the Joint Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream)/Petroleum Resources (Downstream)/Loans and Debts/Justice.
The lead Chairman, Mr. Ajibola Muraina, urged the House to approve the proposal.
However, the committee asked the NNPC to “develop a roadmap for offsetting its huge indebtedness.”
But, some members said it did not make sense for the House to approve another loan for the NNPC, which is battling to explain many allegations bearing on corruption and non-remittance of oil revenues to the public purse.
For example, the House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that the NNPC had been unable to account for “missing funds” running into billions of dollars.
He argued that he expected the House to first direct the corporation to clear itself of all the allegations before approving a fresh loan proposal.
The Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also opposed the loan.
She noted that the committee, in its report, admitted that the NNPC was already heavily indebted.
Dabiri-Erewa said, “The whole thing is a sham; this is a sham. We should not be talking about loans. We don’t even know how much the NNPC owes; the corporation is heavily indebted.
“The chairman of the committee admitted that much in his presentation. This is a sham, we should not accept this.”
Several other members expressed reservations over the proposed loan.
In its first recommendation, the committee stated, “That the House do approve the proposed $1.56bn forward sale agreement.”
The recommendation was approved.
In recommendations three, four and five, the committee acknowledged NNPC’s huge indebtedness.
Recommendation four stated, “That there is a need to streamline operations within the NNPC to eliminate waste, increase operational efficiencies and offer more degree of transparency.”
Members had last Thursday declined to consider the report on the excuse that they were not given copies.
In his comments, the presiding Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, ruled that he should not be held accountable for the members’ disposition as he expected them to have read and “digested” the report before coming to the chambers on Tuesday.

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