…Says the borrowing will not bring hardship on Nigerians
…To organise a Public Hearing on the Loan
…Says Senate to monitor revenue generating agencies, Nigerians can’t Stop Borrowing
…Vows to Probe Claims about the Volume of Imported Fuel
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate has disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari would expend the request for External loan of $29.96 billion on the execution of five legacy Infrastructural projects across the country, just as it said that Nigeria cannot stop borrowing.
Speaking with Journalists in Abuja weekend, Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos West who disclosed that Buhari’s administration has five legacy projects which it planned to spend the money on, however identified the projects as the Second Niger Bridge, the East-West Road, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Mambila Power project, and the Kaduna-Abuja Highway.
Senator Adeola who noted that the Loan will not have untold hardship on the People, said that if the need arises, the Senate would organise a Public Hearing where Nigerians in all strata of the society would come up with suggestions before the final approval by the lawmakers, adding that at the end of the day, the Senate would monitor the utilization of the Loan.
Senator Adeola also vowed that the Senate would monitor the over 300 Revenue generating agencies, with a view to ensuring that revenues that should get to the government coffers get there and used for the overall interest of the country.
He has also threatened that the Senate would probe claims about the Volume of Imported Fuel and those who have cheated Nigerians should be prepared to face the full wrath of the law as they would be prosecuted, adding that the Senate would block all the leakages in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had on November 28, written to the Senate, again requesting for the approval of 2016- 2018 External Borrowing to the tune of $30 billoon to be spent by the Federal Government to execute key Infrastructural projects across the country.
The letter, which was dated November 26, 2019, was read on the floor of the Red Chamber by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, during plenary.
In the letter, President Buhari explained that it became imperative to represent the request because the Eighth National Assembly approved only a part of the External Borrowing request forwarded to it in September 2016.
Senator Adeola said, “The approval of the loan would afford the government, an opportunity to achieve the completion of the projects before the end of the Buhari’s administration. The borrowing plan would assist the government to fulfill its promise to Nigerians. The plan is not only for one or two years, it is for the next four years. So, the loan would be taken in tranche. For instance, instance what the government desire to borrow in 2020, would be requested in 2020. That is why it is called a plan. The Senate will monitor its utilization as soon as they are coming in.
“The Federal Government is not asking the National Assembly to approve for it, the sum of $29.96bn loan. This is because in the last Senate, about $6bn have been approved for President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow out of the $29.96bn. It is the balance of that figure that the government is asking us to approve for it in the borrowing plan, which is about $22.6bn. The Senate Committee on Finance will organise a public hearing on the issue if need be. In the alternative, we would engage the various agencies of the government to give them a clearer view of how the money would be utilized.
“All the money being requested for borrowing would be attached to the execution of specific projects. We are not going to approve any loan plan that is not attached to project execution because that is the only way we can monitor the development and the proper utilisation of the money. The Buhari administration has five legacy projects which it planned to spend the money on.
“They include the Second Niger Bridge, the East-West Road, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Mambila Power project, and the Kaduna-Abuja Highway. The approval of the loan would afford the government, an opportunity to achieve the completion of the projects before the end of the Buhari’s administration. The borrowing plan would assist the government to fulfill its promise to Nigerians.
“The plan is not only for one or two years, it is for the next four years. So, the loan would be taken in tranche. For instance, instance what the government desire to borrow in 2020, would be requested in 2020. That is why it is called a plan. The Senate will monitor its utilization as soon as they are coming in.”
On the huge sums being used by government to service foreign loans, Senator Adeola said, “Every successive government borrow, and since the business of government is a continuum, any incoming government would have to inherit what the past administrations had borrowed. It is a commitment they made on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“What should concern us more is, the judicious application of the money government is borrowing because all governments, even in the United States, borrow. It becomes a burden when government takes loans and refused to repay. So, setting aside the money in order to service any outstanding borrowing is not a bad idea.
“The government is considering two ideas – Setting up a sinking fund account, and at the same time ensuring that money is set aside to repay the loans as and when due. Borrowing will not bring untold hardship on people because any government coming on board after Buhari would still borrow.
“For instance, just last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria said that Nigeria is into a deficit of N4.62tn in 2019 alone, what that simply means is that the deficit recorded in the 2019 budget is N4.62tn. So, the question is, how do we argument this deficit? The options available are, either we print new currency, either we borrow, or either we raise international bond. So, the government needs to move on.
“I agree that there are challenges in the economy but it is not as a result of the action taken by the Buhari administration alone. Successive administrations before his own also contributed. Borrowing should not be an issue, but ensuing that money borrowed must be used for the purpose for which it was meant serve.
“That is what the legislature must ensure so that government would make judicious use of the money for the purpose for which it was borrowed. This is the only thing that would allay the fears of Nigerians because there is no way we could avoid borrowing because the revenue coming in is in trickles not en bloc.”
On how the Senate will monitor revenue generating agencies, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance said, “There will be a quarterly interactive session between the leadership of the Senate and all the revenue generating agencies of the government. The Committee on Finance will have a continuous interaction with all the affected agencies through out the year.
“The arrangement would enable the Senate have a first hand information concerning the performances of these agencies and also render necessary support whenever legislative interventions are required to strengthen the revenue generating agencies. Our committee’s interactions with the agencies on a day to day basis will give us a clear view about the performances of the agencies across the year. With this arrangement in place, we will have little or no challenge concerning monitoring of these generating agencies.”
On the blocking of leakages in the NNPC, Senator Adeola said, “There should be a total overhauling of the NNPC. Every transaction of the NNPC must be made opened. There should not be any transaction of the NNPC that should be shrouded in secrecy.
“The issue here is that NNPC importation of fuel is as a result of the non performance of our refinery. When they recorded under recovery which led to the issue of subsidy payment, it is what now become an issue, the question is, verify the payments? Are there auditors who verify the payments and report back to government?
“That is where the legislature should come in and ensure that all what needs to be done as far as this issue is concerned, must be looked into properly. The 9th Senate will work assiduously to ensure that the under recovery being claimed by the NNPC, the claims about the volume of fuel imported, would be properly looked into. In the 8th Senate, there is a big difference between amount of fuel imported and the actual consumption by Nigerians.
“That has also shown in the current closure of the borders. It has been reported that over 11 million metric tons of pms were not utilized within Nigeria. That shows something is wrong somewhere. So, those who have been living fat on this kind of transaction, should be ready for us as we go into proper legislative oversight. We would ensure that he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands. We are ready and we are going all the way to ensure that the issue of under recovery would be put at rest, once and for all.”