Politics

Aviation Minister shocks senators, says no clue on cost of Abuja 2nd runway, despite Buhari’s loan request to fund it

Why domestic airlines don’t grow —Sirika

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has shocked senators with his assertion that he did not know the cost of the second Abuja airport runway.

The minister who served as a senator in the 7th Senate, told Shehu Sani-led committee on Local and Foreign Debts that he did not know the cost of the project even though it was included to be funded from the $5.5 billion loan the Federal Government is seeking.

Despite including it in the loan request, Sirika said that the cost has not been determined by his Ministry. Lawmakers who were shocked by his revelation, did not however say anything.

Recall that Buhari had in a letter to the Senate, requesting approval for the loan stated that the projects for which the $2.5 billion part of the $5.5 billion was being borrowed, was to fund the Mambilla Hydropower Project, construction of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, counterpart funding for rail projects and the construction of the Bode-Bonny Road, with a bridge across the Opobo Channel.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has revealed that it needs a total of $36 billion to complete its ongoing rail projects across various parts of the country.

The disclosure which was made on Friday by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi before the Senate committee on Local and Foreign Debts, came just as lawmakers subjected him and the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to intense questioning over Federal Government’s bid to borrow another $5.5 billion.

According to Amaechi, “If you put it all together, the total cost of the entire rail projects will amount to about $36billion. Actually we don’t have the money. But it’s an ambitious plan. We really have to start something somewhere and see how far we go.”

He disclosed that President Buhari had directed that the rail line project be extended to cover all 36 state capitals. He informed the committee that part of the $5.5 billion loan being sought was to fund the Itakpe to Warri, Kano to Kaduna and Port Harcourt to Calabar sections of the rail projects.

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The Senate committee had raised queries regarding the impact of the planned borrowing of $5.5 billion on the living standards of Nigerians.

“Some of the questions Nigerians and indeed our constituents have asked repeatedly include: what has the Federal Government done with the reported recovered loot allegedly traced to the previous administration? what role can such recovered monies play in the 2017 budget financing? How much indeed has been recovered? Has the National Assembly appropriated the recovered loot for government expenditure? Sani asked,” Sani said.

He said that all actions and decisions with respect to these loan requests by his Committee and indeed this Senate will responsibly be done, only and only, on its merits.

“l will advise therefore, that as representatives of Mr President, you put your best foot forward and be as convincing as possible with facts and figures. for the Senate to fully have your back, with respect to these requests.

“It has become clear that if Nigeria must borrow, we must borrow responsibly, we cannot afford to mortgage the future of our unborn generation; if we must bequeath to the future generation a pile debt, it must be justified with commensurate infrastructural proof of the value of the debt.

“The payment plan of this debt will undoubtedly last the length of our lifetimes and possubly beyond. We must live behind a legacy that will appease and answer the questions the next generation of Nigerians will ask.

“We must not allow our children and grand children be enslaved with chains of debts. Eurobond must not be another bondage to Europe,” he stated.

Adeosun who was represented by the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Patience Oniha, told the committee that the $2.5 billion part of the loan has already been approved in the 2017 budget.

She further explained that the $3 billion part is to upset local debt adding that it is not healthy to have such huge local debt hanging on the head of the nation.

By Ehisuan Odia…

 

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