KwaraPolitics

Ex-speaker, Atunwa, Kwara Assembly trade words over N35b loan approval

The approval of N35b bond request from Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State, by the State’s House of Assembly, has triggered a war of words between the former Speaker of the House, Razak Atunwa, and the 9th Assembly.

Barrister Atunwa had, following the approval of the proposed bond by the House of Assembly for the governor, issued a statement calling the attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Debt Management Office, DMO, to put Kwara State on the watchlist over the bond request.

He argued among other things, that the N35b bond request did not follow due process because there was no public hearing conducted by the House to scrutinize it.

Atunwa’s statement observed that: “It is exceedingly alarming that the governor of Kwara state, in concert with his collaborators in the Kwara state House of Assembly, has embarked on a glaringly illegal scheme to borrow N35b without due authority or due process.

“The first time the Kwara public became aware of this proposed borrowing of humongous proportion was when the state House of Assembly passed a resolution approving the governor’s request. This is most worrying indeed.”

However, reacting to Atunwa’s statement on Tuesday, the House of Assembly, in a statement by the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Youth, Sports, Culture and Tourism, Hon Awolola Olumide Ayokunle, dismissed the former speaker’s claim, saying “The process leading to the N35b request followed all due process and complied with all regulatory requirements.”

He said, “His Excellency, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, communicated the request for approval of the bond to Kwara state House of Assembly via a letter dated January 7th, 2021, duly signed by the Secretary to the state government, attached in compliance with extant laws.

“Between January 7, 2021, when the honorable House received the governor’s request, and January 26, 2021, when the request was read on the floor, the House embarked on a series of consultative activities which informed its conviction that the bond would ultimately serve public interest.

“Consequently, the request was debated extensively on the floor of the House on 26th January, 2021. After rigorous scrutiny, the House was convinced that the bond, if secured, will serve public interest and address the overwhelming infrastructural deficit in the state.”

Ayokunle, asserted that the House was confident that from all available documents presented before it, the process conformed with all relevant lawful provisions.

“These, therefore, informed the resolution of the House, as required by law,” he added.

The committee chairman said, “It is on record that the 8th Assembly, only called for public hearing on the request for approval on N20b bond by former governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, scheduled for Friday, 18th December 2015, but was later cancelled.”

Ayokunle, also reminded Atunwa that in 2008, while he was a member of the state executive council, through a letter dated September 8th, 2008, the then state executive council, requested approval of Kwara state House of Assembly to raise N45b bond and same was approved by the sixth Assembly through a motion on September 11,2008, without debate on the floor of the House, nor any public hearing.

“It is worthy of note, that at no time in the history of the legislature in Kwara state was a public hearing held over such a request, not even for the grossly misappropriated N17b bond secured by former governor Bukola Saraki,” he further claimed.

The committee chairman disclosed that on January 3rd, 2012, governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, requested Hon Atunwa-led 7th Assembly’s resolution in support of a N10b credit facility from Guaranty Trust bank PLC, without reference to any specific project. The request was speedily approved through an undisputed motion by the House.

He said “We are, therefore, marveled at the moral justification a former speaker under whose watch a loan of N10b was approved without debate has to fault a thoroughly debated resolution of the 9th Kwara Assembly.”

Ayokunle said while the House members are open to constructive criticisms from the opposition and Kwarans of good conscience, “we urge Hon Atunwa and stakeholders alike to ensure future comments and submissions on state matters are guided by the truth and unabashed patriotism.”

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