• Lawan, Gbajabiamila under pressure to halt process
Indications have emerged that some lawmakers are poised for war with the Federal Government over plans to borrow additional monies to fund capital components of the 2021 budget.
Last Tuesday, the Senate received a formal request from President Muhammadu Buhari to consider and approve an external loan to fund projects captured under the 2018-2021 borrowing plan.
In the letter dated August 24 read at plenary by Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Buhari explained that he needed funds for projects listed in the 2018-2021 Federal Government Borrowing Plan which he hoped to finance through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD), China-Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE) in the total sum of $4,054,476,863.00; Euro 710,000,000. and Grant Component of $125,000,000.
He explained that the amount would be used to fund federal and states government projects cut across key sectors such as Infrastructure, health, agriculture and food security, energy, education, human capital development and COVID-19 response efforts.
It was learnt however that the fresh loan request has unsettled some lawmakers, who are worried that the country may run into troubled waters if the National Assembly doesn’t halt the fresh plan.
While some lawmakers in the ruling party said barring any last minute changes, the National Assembly, may approve the fresh loans, others said the approval may not happen if lawmakers already mounting pressure on the leadership of the National Assembly carry out their threat to frustrate the move.
Many lawmakers who spoke to Daily Sun said the lack of transparency on the part of the executive on how the billions of dollars were spent had raised a red flag.
Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, told Daily Sun, that a decision would only be taken when the Senate receives the report from the Clifford Ordia-led committee on Local and Foreign Debts.
A senator from the North West, who pleaded not to be named, however, said the loan request would not be resisted as lawmakers have resigned to fate, and hardly speak up on issues pertaining to President Buhari.
He said Senate President Ahmed Lawan, would go ahead and approve any request from President Buhari with or without the approval of the entire Senate.
He wondered why the National Assembly would be subjected to constant ridicule because they want to be in the good books of the President.
He said despite the humongous loans already approved for President Buhari since 2019, the relevant National Assembly standing committees were yet to carry out appropriate oversights on projects reportedly executed with the loans.
The lawmaker said heads of various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), seldom take them serious when they demand for documents or make enquiries about how the loans were utilised.
“There are over 60 committees which should ordinarily carry out oversight functions and ensure that these monies are well spent. Unknown to Nigerians, these committees are not well funded. We don’t go on regular oversight. Sometimes, when we decide to go, we rely on funding from the agencies we are supposed to oversight to buy us flight tickets and pay our hotel bills. How do you carry out a proper oversight function like that? So, this is our situation.”
Former leader of the Senate, Mohammed Ali Ndume, also expressed the displeasure of the increasing requests for loans by the executive arm of government and expeditious approval by the National Assembly.
Ndume said though borrowing was not a crime, but the thoroughness required for its approval was often not followed by the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly.
He said this has made Nigerians to be suspicious of the federal lawmakers and invariably tagged them as rubber stamp.