Of Fred Itua, Abuja
Indications have emerged that some lawmakers are on the verge of going to war with the federal government over plans to borrow additional money to fund the capital elements of the 2021 budget.
Last Tuesday, the Senate received a formal request from President Muhammadu Buhari to examine and approve an external loan to finance projects included in the 2018-2021 borrowing plan.
In the letter dated August 24 read in plenary session by Senate Speaker Ahmed Lawan, Buhari explained that he needed funds for the projects listed in the Federal Government’s 2018-2021 Borrowing Plan that he hoped to fund via sovereign loans from the World Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD), the China-Exim Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered / China Export and Credit (SINOSURE) for a total amount of $ 4,054,476,863.00; 710,000,000 euros. and the grant component of $ 125,000,000.
He explained that the amount would be used to fund federal and state government projects covering key sectors such as infrastructure, health, agriculture and food security, energy, education, capital development. human rights and COVID-19 response efforts.
However, we have learned that the new loan request has destabilized some lawmakers, who fear that the country will find itself in troubled waters if the National Assembly does not stop the new plan.
While some ruling party lawmakers have said that unless there are last-minute changes, the National Assembly could approve the new loans, others have said approval may not take place if lawmakers are already pressuring the leadership of the National Assembly to follow through on their threat to thwart the decision.
Many lawmakers who spoke to the Daily Sun said the executive’s lack of transparency on how the billions of dollars were spent raised a red flag.
Senate spokesman Ajibola Basiru told the Daily Sun that a decision would only be made when the Senate receives the report from the committee on local and foreign debts headed by Clifford Ordia.
A senator from the North West, who pleaded not to be named, however said the loan request would not face resistance as lawmakers resigned themselves to the fate and barely spoke on the questions relating to President Buhari.
He said Senate Speaker Ahmed Lawan go ahead and approve any request from President Buhari with or without full Senate approval.
He wondered why the National Assembly would be constantly ridiculed for wanting to be in the president’s good books.
He said that despite the huge loans already approved for President Buhari since 2019, the relevant standing committees of the National Assembly had not yet carried out the appropriate checks on the projects that were allegedly executed with the loans.
The lawmaker said heads of various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) rarely take them seriously when requesting documents or inquiring about how the loans have been used.
“There are over 60 committees that would normally have oversight functions and ensure that these funds are well spent. Unknown to Nigerians, these committees are not well funded. We don’t do regular monitoring. Sometimes when we decide to leave, we rely on funding from the agencies we are supposed to oversee to buy us plane tickets and pay our hotel bills. How do you exercise an appropriate oversight function like that? So this is our situation.
Former Senate Speaker Mohammed Ali Ndume has also expressed his displeasure with increasing requests for loans from the government executive and the rushed approval of the National Assembly.
Ndume said that while borrowing was not a crime, but the rigor required for its approval was often not followed by the Senate and, by extension, the National Assembly.
He said this made Nigerians wary of federal lawmakers and invariably labeled them as a rubber stamp.