By Olugbenga Salami

Senate has approved the payment of N338.9 billion local debts owed by the federal government through a promissory note programme and bond issuance on Wednesday.

The figure consists of N102 billion as refund for federal projects executed by Delta and Taraba States; N43.5 billion for debts owed five contractors, and N193 billion as outstanding Export Expansion Grant, EEG claims by 269 companies.

A breakdown of the figure shows that Delta State share of the N102 billion refund is N67.9 billion, while Taraba State will get the balance of N34.3 billion.

Also, of the N43.5 billion contract liabilities, Setraco will get N37.4 billion, Bouygues -N4.6 billion, Simida S and I. International company -N346 million, Hamadala Homes and Agency Ltd -N346 million and LEJMEJ Nigeria Ltd -N960 million.

The Senate approval followed the submission and presentation of the report of its adhoc committee chaired by Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC-Edo Northwhich worked on the executive request.

Presenting the report, Alimikhena said the committee was furnished by justifiable details of all claims submitted by representatives of Delta and Taraba States, beneficiaries of the EEG scheme and the contractors.

The details, according to him, include the Federal Government’s approval through its Ministry of Works for the highway projects executed by the two states.

Others are contract agreements between the state governments and the contractors that handled the projects, and evidence of payments to the contractors.

Also received by the committee, Alimikhena added, were certificates of project completion and evidence of part payments made by various MDAs to the five contractors, among others.

The senator said after exhaustive deliberations on the submissions and presentations, the committee found that the federal highways constructed by the states were in deplorable conditions before the intervention.

He said beneficiaries of the EEG scheme had not been paid since 2007 up to the compilation period in 2016/2017.

“The backlog in disbursement of the EEG claims seriously affected the liquidity strength of most of the companies which has resulted in difficulty of loan repayment and meeting employees obligations.

“Contractors that appeared before the committee justified their claims by presenting all supporting documents including evidence of part payments received”, he said

The committee, therefore, recommended that the president’s request be granted for the settlement of the debts.

Some senators, in their contributions supported the motion for approval of the recommendations.

However, Senator Barnabas Gemade urged the committee to request for evidence of the income earned by the country from the exports claimed to have been promoted by the benefiting companies.

“I believe the item on the exports expansion grant should be reconsidered by the committee because we don’t even know how much income a company asking for N7 billion for exports promoted has brought to the nation.

“We know there is a huge amount of funds around this EEG, and we should not push things unnecessarily”, he said.

But his argument fell on deaf ears as the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at the sitting, put the recommendations to a voice vote and it was approved.

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