Kano State Elders, under the aegis of the Kano Unity Forum, has petitioned the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the National Assembly and the Federal Ministry of Finance, asking them to stop the N300bn loan the state Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje, plans to obtain from China.
In the petition, titled, “A call for the urgent review of the proposed Chinese mono rail loan to Kano State Government,’ which was signed by its Chairman, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the forum condemned Ganduje’s insistence on obtaining the loan from China Development Bank.
In a copy of the petition made available to journalists on Thursday, the group the loan was an invitation to enslavement and it vowed never to allow people of the state to be enslaved.
It stated, “Except for a few in the official circles, nobody else knows the terms and conditions of the loan agreement,” adding that “the exact amount being borrowed is shrouded in secrecy.
“The first phase of the project costing over N300bn or may be even the N828bn mentioned by others, coming mostly from a foreign loan is mind-boggling, to say the least. A rethink is not only needed, but necessary.
“Based on the analysis of the present indebtedness of Kano State as provided by the Debt Management Office, it is extremely difficult, almost impossible for Kano State to sustain any indebtedness beyond the current liability portfolio of the state.”
The forum stated that a rail project was never a project that should be done in haste, adding that it was not a medium term project.
It said, “If indeed the Chinese want to genuinely help with cheap loans, they should be requested to support critical sectors such as education, health, agriculture, power, science and technology, infrastructure, industry and water supply.
“After all, the Chinese have become world leaders in these aspects of transformative development.”
The group said that the Kano Unity Forum would not give “any self-serving politician the latitude to increase poverty and deprivation within the general public through ill-conceived public works.
“We shall not be deluded by the attractive idea of good return from the investment. Rail projects world over are known as highly capital intensive with a very negligible rate of return on investment. It is more of a social welfare project, especially in less developed economies. “
The forum, therefore, warned that if the state government insisted on going ahead with the project, “we will diligently pursue court processes and other lawful means to stop the light rail project.”
The group, therefore, called on the President “to intervene in order to save the state and its citizens from enslavement.
“We also vow to ensure that the next administration in the state repudiates the agreement altogether and disregard any responsibility for whatever money the Chinese expended on this project. We must emphasise that the good people of Kano do not need this expensive white elephant project.’’
You are raising unnecessary alarm, Ganduje’s aide replies elders
Reacting on the petition, the Special Adviser to Ganduje on Media, Salihu Tanko-Yakasai, in an interview with The PUNCH, said there was a need for the elders to understand that the loan was not new as the process started three years ago.
He said the state government had before followed all the necessary steps and procedures for taking the loan.
He said after the negotiations for the loan, Ganduje submitted the document to the President, National Assembly and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Justice as well as the Deft Management Office.
He stated, “After all these processes, we got approval of the loan. So why are they raising any alarm about it?”
He said the money was not coming to the state government directly but rather it would go to the contractor from the bank, while the state government would also give its counterpart fund for the execution of the project.
“Besides, it is for the development of the state. Why the elders did not write and question the Federal Government on its ongoing rail project in the country?” he asked
But a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain, Alhaji Aminu Abdussalam, described the proposed light rail project in Kano as a waste of resources.
Abdussalam, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said at present all serious governments were more concerned with the welfare of their citizens in view of the current economic challenges, but the state government was busy trying to access a loan which would not positively impact on the common man.