Crisis looms in Enugu Assembly over approval of N11bn secret loan

Tension is heightening in Enugu State, following an allegation that some members of the House of Assembly have secretly conceded to the fresh request by the outgoing government of Sullivan Chime to obtain N11 billion loan from a first generation bank purportedly for payment of debts owed to some government contractors.

Concerned Citizens of Enugu State, through a petition signed on their behalf by one Barrister Omega, raised an alarm that the loan, which had earlier been stopped by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for being unnecessary, was being reintroduced by the state government, which tenure would elapse in the next few weeks.

Daily Times recalled that the controversial loan, which the Enugu government had claimed was for the settlement of outstanding debts owed contractors handling her projects, was cancelled following public outcry against the decision of the government to throw the state into perpetual debt, more so when its tenure is at the eleventh hour.

The loan controversy, which has attracted increased public outrage against the outgoing administration, is coming on the heels of secret concession of the services of the Enugu State Water Corporation, by the state government, to a private company for a period of 25 years and the approval of over 600 percent increase in water tariff for the firm, without the knowledge of the state House of Assembly.

The news of the water concession contract drew the ire of majority of the state law makers, last Tuesday, when petitions brought against the deal were being deliberated as the Managing Director of the Water Corporation, Chinedu Akah, admitted that he was compelled to sign the document after he was summoned to the Government House, Enugu, without knowing the content.

Akah made a startling revelation at the chambers of the State Assembly, when he said never studied the content of the concession contract document, which was consigned to a private company, A.G Gold Trust, to manage water supply in Enugu and its environs on behalf of the state for the next 25 years.

The managing director, who made no attempt to cover up for the state government on the secret water concession deal, said: “I did not look at it; I just signed the document. I felt it would be embarrassing to the governor, if I refused to sign,” he told the lawmakers who questioned him on why he appended his signature to the agreement, when he knew that the state Assembly had not approved such concession.

However, the House ordered that the water concession arrangement be suspended, pending its investigation of the issue, but Daily Times learnt at the weekend that a top executive of the government had summoned the lawmakers to a meeting, where he lobbied them to approve the deal for the company, which has no record of ever handling such water distribution services anywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, inspite of the petition raised against the fresh request for approval of the N11 billion credit facility by the outgoing Chime administration, the lawmakers have reportedly fixed a fresh motion for hearing tomorrow, where they plan to authorise an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) with a first generation bank in Enugu.

The petition, titled ‘Breach of Trust by the Enugu State House of Assembly’, alleged: “Last year, at about the month of November, Enugu State House of Assembly, in collusion with some faceless persons, vaguely referred to as ‘Enugu Contractors’, passed a loan authorisation of about N11 billion, purportedly for the payment of unestablished obligations of Enugu State Government to some unknown contractors.

“The pursuit of the motion and passage within such a time frame attracted the attention of Enugu State people, whose worry is on the rationale of a House of Assembly whose time was nearing its end to engage in such loan approval,” it added.

It was gathered that the sum of N3 billion had been collected out of the N11 billion requested by the government from a bank and the fresh request, after the earlier one, which was rejected last year, was to cover up the alleged illegality which the Central Bank of Nigeria was said to have seriously frowned at.

Meanwhile, some civil society groups have threatened to drag the state lawmakers before the anti-graft agencies, if they go ahead to approve the last-minute loan request by the government, but sources said that some recalcitrant lawmakers, especially those who were given automatic tickets for another term, may have conceded to their ‘master’s’ request and were mobilising other colleagues to support the motion to be tabled for discussion tomorrow.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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