Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
Ahead of arrangements by Nigeria government to revisit the template for the spending of the $22.7 billion loan recently approved by the Senate, an influential group from the South East geo-political zone has petitioned the China Exim Bank to suspend or cancel the loan.
The Senate had a fortnight ago approved the $22.7 billion loan request from China Exim Bank by President Muhammadu Buhari despite protests by some states especially those in South East that they were excluded from the infrastructural development captured in the loan.
In a letter of demand to China Exim Bank by the group, Igbo Board of Deputies, signed by Mr. Austin Okeke and delivered at the banks office in Johannesburg, on March 11, the group warned that it would join the bank in the suit against the Nigerian government if it fails to heed to its demand.
Igbo Board of Deputies insisted that the bank suspends disbursement of the loan or cancel it in the alternative until Nigeria revised or amended the way she intends to allocate the loans and include projects in the South East.
A statement by the body made up of men and women reads in parts: “Today being 11th day of March 2020, we delivered a letter of demand to China Exim Bank in Johannesburg calling upon it to give an undertaking in the following manner:
“Suspend the loan disbursement, alternatively, cancel the approval of the loan to the Nigerian government until such time as it has revised and/or amended the manner it intends to allocate the loans so as to include projects in the South East of Nigeria, which projects shall directly benefit the Igbo; and
“As a condition, tie the loan repayment to the regions of Nigeria that inherit the projects, as Nigeria flounders and threatens to break up.
“In going forward, the Chinese must ensure that all projects are valued and open-bid for, following international best practices to ensure standard quality and fair cost.
“The present Nigerian government is prone to project-cost inflation, and future generations are not obligated to pay for fraudulently inflated costs.
“Failing which we shall join China Exim Bank as a defendant party to the lawsuit against the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“We say so because we do not guarantee the repayment of these loans by the other federating units of Nigeria in so far as the deliberate discrimination against the Igbo in Nigeria persists.”
The group made it clear that states in Igbo land were not accommodated to benefit from the loan hence would not be held liable for both now or in the future.
“Igbo are not beneficiaries of the loans, and shall not participate in servicing and repayment of same as a matter of principle, fact, and law.
“The Igbo shall not be held liable for these loans, not now and in the future. We will not mortgage the rights and interests of our future generations for something they neither partook in nor benefited.”