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Senate approves $22.7bn FG’s loan amid controversy



Senate approves $22.7bn FG's loan amid controversy

Ahmad Lawan

Senate has approved $22,798,448,717 billion foreign loan request by President Muhammadu Buhari amid controversy among members of the upper legislative chamber.
Specifically, there were serious altercations between the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe who allegedly led the opposition members on walkouts after an executive closed doors session midway to debate on the loan
The loan approval followed the presentation of a report of the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts on the 2016-2018 Federal Government Borrowing Plan and the adoption of the  two recommendations of the committee.
Presenting the report at plenary, chairman of the committee, Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP Edo Central) noted that Senate had considered the request for external borrowing plan on December 17, 2019.
Ordia listed the breakdown of the sources for the  loan to include, the World Bank; Africa Development Bank, AfDB; Islamic Development Bank, IDB; German Development Bank, French Development Bank and China Exim Bank.
According to him, the China Exim Bank would provide the highest loan with over $17 billion.
Ordia said that the borrowing plan would be sustainable based on the explanation of the Minister of Finance, and the Debts Management Office, DMO.
He added that the proposed projects tied to the loan request in Ministries of Power, Transportation, Federal Capital Territory, Works and Housing, Agriculture, respectively, would have multiplier effect on stimulating the economic growth.
This, he said would be done via job creation, stimulation of commercial activities and increase in manufacturing activities.
However, trouble started when the senate president wanted blanket’s approval of the loan without going through it item by item as it affects the nation’s economy.

Some senators kicked against the submission of the committee’s report without the details of the projects to be funded with the money requested for by President Buhari.

Senate approves $22.7bn FG's loan amid controversy

Abaribe in particular, decided not to look away from the lacuna, as he drew the attention of his colleagues to the matter, and sought for a thorough scrutiny of the document.

In his contribution, Senator Ifeanyi  Ubah (YPP Anambra North), drew the attention of the Senate to the alleged poor infrastructures in  the South East zone in line with the external borrowing plan of the federal government.

He said there was need for an  improved infrastructure especially the completion of  second Niger bridge and railways lines along the  South -Eastern corridors.

Buhari had requested the 8th National Assembly to approve $29.96bn for his administration but the Senate, under the leadership of Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate, turned down the request because the President did not attach details of the projects and financial allocations to his letter of request.

President Buhari, however, represented the request to the 9th Senate last December but was reduced to $22.7 billion, clarifying that the 8th National Assembly actually approved about $6 billion out of the total amount requested.

During the consideration of the report yesterday, however, Abaribe, raised a point of order to draw the attention of the Senate to the lack of attachment of details of projects and fund allocations in the report, thereby urging the President of the Senate to allow a clause by clause consideration of the loan request.

Not comfortable with Abaribe’s request, Lawan turned down his suggestion, saying that the report of the Committee should not be subjected to debate, according to the rules of the Senate.

The position of Lawan, did not however, go down well with the Minority Leader, who cautioned that it would be injurious to the country’s economy, for the Senate to approve the loan without proper scrutiny.

Along the way, the senators agreed to dissolve into executive session following suggestion by Senator Gabriel Suswan (PDP Benue North East).

In his remarks after approval of the loan, Lawan said the Senate via its oversight function would ensure that every amount approved for a project would be strictly dedicated to the project.

He assured Nigerians the loan would be utilised on for projects it was designed  for  the good of Nigerians.
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