The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the protest by National Assembly members from the South-East geopolitical zone led to the suspension of work on the $22.79bn external borrowing request by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Gbajabiamila said the House of Representatives was already in talks with the Federal Government on how the zone would be accommodated in the execution of projects with the loan.
The Speaker said this in Abuja, on Wednesday, when he hosted Leaders of the South-South and South-East Faith Forum.
The House had, on March 11, suspended consideration of the $22.79bn loan request indefinitely.
It had scheduled consideration of the report by the Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management, on the 2016-2018 Federal Government External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan, but Gbajabiamila asked that the consideration be stood down without giving a new date.
On March 13, members of the South-East caucus in the National Assembly, led by the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, met separately with President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and the Speaker behind closed doors.
Responding to the call by the Leaders of Faith Forum that the Federal Government should jettison the idea of taking the loan at this critical time, the Speaker said the issue was debatable, adding that government should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Gbajabiamila disclosed that the confirmation process was discontinued due to protests that the South-East would not benefit from the loan.
The Speaker said he spoke with Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, to find a solution to the impasse.
He said, “There has been a lot of agitation about South-East not benefiting from the loan. It is one of the reasons we haven’t considered the loan in the House. I’ve discussed with the finance minister and the DG Budget. It is a matter that we are looking into seriously.
“I’m hoping that there will be some kind of amicable resolution, so that everybody will be carried along. Equity suggests that all zones must be carried along.
“With the quality of members that you have and the generality of the House, we’ll work towards a fair resolution of the issue so that it leads to something that will bring us together and unite us as a country.”
Gbajabiamila also said the House was already addressing the issues of open grazing and insecurity, among others, as raised by the clerics, challenging them to come up with alternatives and possible solutions to any issue that they were uncomfortable with.
The Speaker also urged religious leaders to always pray for Nigerian leaders because they need prayers all the time in order to succeed.
He appealed to the clerics to avail Nigerian leaders with their wisdom and knowledge, especially in the areas of politics and governance.
Earlier, leader of the delegation, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, said the visit was to discuss issues of concerns with the Speaker, saying, while they applauded the Federal Government’s food security agenda, farmlands across the country were still unsafe.
The leaders urged the government to urgently address the situation and avert impending hunger in most communities that depend on staple food like cassava and rice.
The religious leaders said the issue of open grazing must stop, adding that it generated insecurity and people were no longer safe in their farmlands.