*Senators irked by Buhari’s failure to attach borrowing breakdown to letter
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE Senate, yesterday, unanimously, threw out President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for external loan of $29.96 billion to execute key infrastructural projects across the country between 2016 and 2018 because the letter conveying it was not accompanied by a borrowing plan.
The Senate did not even discuss the request as it died immediately it was mentioned as an executive communication by Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume.
However, the Presidency, in a swift reaction by Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senate, Senator Ita Enang, said it would engage the Senate and provide all the needed documents and borrowing plan.
The matter came up soon after the Senate convened for the day’s plenary and the request was number one under Executive communication in the Order Paper.
Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, moved a motion that the request be considered and his motion was seconded by the Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki who presided over the plenary, put the question forward whether or not the request should be debated.
However, Senate President Saraki was interrupted by Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West, who raised a point of order. He was still speaking when he was cut short by Saraki, who insisted that the question be put forward before Melaye’s position will be accommodated.
Senate President Saraki, thereafter put it to vote and the nays had it.
Senator Saraki who was surprised and apparently out to give President Buhari a soft landing, decided to put it to vote the second time and the Senators again thundered ‘nay’ and the Senate President had no option than to rule in favour of those who voted against collecting the loan. The request was shot down at about 11am yesterday.
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Though the Senators did not discuss it and were however silent on the reasons for killing the request for the loan by the President, Vanguard however gathered that the request died on arrival on technical ground and for two key reasons.
According to a source, the Senate decided to throw it away because in the letter, President Buhari wrote that he was attaching a breakdown of the $29.9 billion which he never did as the senators got only the letter which was dated 20 October.
In the letter to the Senate, President Buhari had said in the first paragraph that “ I wish to refer to the above subject and to submit the attached draft of Federal Government 2016-2018 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan for consideration and early approval by the National Assembly to ensure prompt implementation of the projects…”
According to a source, the Senators rejected the request because of what they termed, anticipatory approval which was sought for by the president as he did not send to the Senate along side the letter, Federal Government’s 2016-2018 borrowing plan.
The last paragraph of the president’ s Letter which led to the rejection reads thus: “…it has become inevitable to request for the National Assembly leadership approval pending the consideration and approval of the 2016-2118 borrowing plan by the National Assembly to enable us disburse these funds immediately.”
The source said, “The President in the letter said there was an attachment containing the breakdown of the external loan request. But there is no attachment. President Buhari did not attach the breakdown. There is no way we can consider such a request.
“Secondly, the president has not sent Federal Government’s 2016-2018 borrowing plan to the Senate. That ought to have been sent first for consideration and passage before this request. If we consider this request, how do we do that? These are the obvious reasons. There is no political undertone here.”
Answering questions from Journalists after plenary, Senate leader Ali Ndume noted that it was not taken due to some technical faults like the issue of no attachment from the President as well as no breakdown of borrowing plans.