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General News of Saturday, 14 July 2018

Source: dailyguideafrica.com

'Blows' in Parliament over 'Eastern Region University' loan

Parliament was virtually turned into a ‘landmine’ yesterday, with Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the House firing salvos at one another amidst extreme hecklings over a loan agreement of $90 million to finance the establishment of a campus of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development at Bunso.

There were heated arguments over the Bunso campus of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development, which is also expected to have other campuses at Somanya and Donkorkrom, all in the Eastern Region with the minority members, led by their leader, Haruna Iddrisu, completely dissenting to the loan agreement.

Members of the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the Finance Committee, which scrutinized the agreement, also completely refused to approve the loan at the committee level allowing only the Majority to approve the report of the committee with nine votes as against seven votes by the minority.

The argument of the minority was that the law that established the university to be sited in the Eastern Region, Act 898 did not include Bunso as one of original campuses and so for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to circumvent provisions of the law to include Bunso is a clear breach of the law and a slap in the face of the Constitution.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who was the Deputy Minister of Education in-charge of Tertiary Education in the last administration, said it would be a day of shame for Parliament to approve the loan because it will undermine the principles of Act 898.

He said that by dictates of the Act, no new campus ought to be created without the amendment of the Act, adding that the choice of Bunso is a deliberate political decision to site the campus in the home district of the president.

He said per the Act, a Governing Council must be put in place to determine the location of new satellite campus, apart from Somanya and Donkorkrom.

He said that the NPP failed to do all these and went ahead to secure the loan for the construction of a campus at Bunso and urged Parliament to do the right thing by amending the law before approving the loan.

The Minister of Defence, who is the MP for Bimbilla, Dominic Nitiwul, counteracted the statements by the minority members in a similar forceful manner, chastising the minority members for behaving like ostriches.

He said the NDC administration at the time also deliberately decided to site the campuses first at Somanya and Donkorkrom when there was an established Cocoa College at Bunso that had some basic amenities to be used as start-up facilities for the new university.

He said the previous NDC administration decided to go for the previous small loan of $50 million for the Somanya campus when there was this $90 million facility from the South Korean EXIM Bank to start the campus.

He said negotiations with the Korean EXIM Bank were started by the NDC administration in 2015 and that when the loan was secured, the EXIM Bank did its own feasibility studies and found out that Bunso had University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies and the Cocoa College and recommended the siting of the campus there, which will be used as a centre of excellence in agro-entrepreneurship and engineering.

He said the NPP has plans to also develop the Somanya and Donkorkrom campuses, with work now progressing steadily on the Somanya campus.

The Bimbilla MP, therefore, urged the Minority to stop playing politics with the university that ought to be constructed for the people of the Eastern Region, which was started by their government.

“The Akufo-Addo’s government will do what you were not able to do for the people of the Eastern Region,” he said.

The loan could, however, not be approved by the House because the House did not have the required number of members to do that with the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who was presiding, directing that the approval be deferred to a later date to allow more than half of the 275 members of the House to approve it.