Reps vow to ensure effective utilisation of $3.4bn IMF loan, COVID-19 donations

•As CSOs call for probe of alleged diversion of palliatives, CCT

The Speaker of House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday vowed that the House will embark on vigorous oversight function with the view to ensure accountability in the utilization of all external loans obtained by Nigeria, including the $3.4 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to meet the urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

Hon. Gbajabiamila gave the assurance in Abuja while responding to various concerns on the diversion of palliative materials, controversies trailing the identity of beneficiaries of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) as well as the need for accountability of the $3.4 billion IMF loan raised by Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa.

The Speaker, who underscored the need for robust partnership between the House and CSOs in the bid to deepen governance, unveiled plans to launch the ‘reworked Legislative Agenda’ in the next two weeks, in order to reflect the current realities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “On the IMF loan, our oversight is going to be more vigorous than ever before because these loans don’t come cheap.

“They must be applied as intended and that is the work that we have to do. I’m glad that you brought it up,” he acknowledged.

Hon. Gbajabiamila who affirmed that the ongoing Federal Government’s National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) was not backed by law, assured the CSOs of the House resolve to roll out legislation that will address all concerns raised by Nigerians with the view to ensure that it covers “a wider spectrum of the country and give it geographical spread that looks like Nigeria.”

The Speaker said: “What we are trying to do is that I’m sure in the next one or two weeks, we are working seriously on the codification of the NSIP, social intervention of government; you know it is not in any codification form, it is not a law. It works more or less as palliatives and is subject to the whims and caprices of anybody.

“We have similar programmes in America, England but they are codified so that it’s not subjected to anybody’s desire or how you want to distribute. It’s embedded and baked into the law that is made for that purpose. The statistics, how you distribute, the format to use all that will be done,” he assured.

He also urged the CSOs to come up with workable strategies that could help the government to ensure that will impact on the vulnerable groups including children, women, youths and the people living with disabilities across the society.

While speaking on the post-COVID-19 plans, the Speaker explained that the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill was aimed at safeguarding the employment of Nigerians by giving sizeable incentives, by way of giving 50 per cent tax rebate to the employers of labour, grant moratorium to mortgage loans, among other initiatives.

Speaking earlier, the CISLAC Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, solicited for the intervention of the House leadership in ensuring accountability in the distribution of palliatives materials to underscored the need for the National Assembly to address the concerns raised by Nigerians and other labour and civil society organisations including the donations accrued into COVID-19 account.

“We want to encourage the National Assembly to see what they can do to ensure that the additional 1 million that Mr President has agreed to add, to ensure that it captured the actual people who need it, not the other people who don’t need it.

“The other thing that I want to talk about is the loan that we got from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when the issue of the loan was brought, we were very much concerned that we did not want a loan to be collected and end up in a manner that it’s not going to help to support ordinary Nigerian.

“So we engaged IMF, and we have had a series of calls directly with Washington DC on how to ensure that we increase accountability in the management of the loan itself. I believe that the National Assembly because we have the Fiscal Responsibility Act that spells out how we need to borrow money and how to use the money. I want to appeal to the National Assembly to ensure that they pout maximum oversight on how this loan and all the donations across is actually being utilized. This will really help in ensuring that the target groups actually benefit,” Rafinsajani urged.

Meanwhile, an Abuja based Civil Society Organisation, Social Action on Monday vowed to hold President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration responsible for the recovered $311 million from the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha loot.

According to the Head, Social Action, Nigeria, Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor, “apart from the accountability demands of the citizens, and the gaping need for the resources by the country, it is instructive to note that even the sovereign entities that returned the money to us have warned that Nigeria will refund the money if it fails to keep to the terms of the repatriation agreement, that is, using it judiciously for what it was meant for.

“And so it was from all angles, pertinent on the federal government to ensure it does not go the ignoble way of many of the country’s recovered assets and resources, which till date cannot be properly accounted for.”

Bellonwu-Okafor also underscored the need for the present administration to make conscious effort to “bring development to critical sectors of the economy including the health sector, of which the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inherent weakness in the sector and the dire need for critical intervention to re-position it to play its vital role in the polity, as well as bring discernible improvement to the lots of the Nigerian masses, who has been the victims of orchestrated corruption and looting of the nation’s resources over the years.

“The Federal Government must ensure the prudent utilisation of this fund. To this end, it must be applied to specific projects that Nigerians can see and benefit from. This is against its touting of being used to finance the budget. Such amorphous nature of deployment is what engulfs resources in intractable non-clarity and ultimately end in pillaging. The government must, therefore, publish a list of specific projects it intends to utilize the fund on and with concrete timelines for its implementation.

“It is noteworthy, however, the pledge Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, that the Federal Government would ensure the transparent use of the returned assets. It is, therefore, our hope that the authorities concerned, would follow through on this commitment towards ensuring that the purposed intendment of the return of the funds was not lost on both the country and its citizen,” she said.



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