…Says Twitter needs us as Nigeria needs Twitter
…Says conflict between NASS, Presidency not in public interest
By Soni Daniel & Henry Umoru, ABUJA
Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, on Friday, justified the approval by the National Assembly of more foreign loan requests by the Presidency despite the accumulation of foreign debts by Nigeria, saying that the country had no option than to borrow in order to provide critical infrastructure for Nigerians.
Senator Lawan, who spoke at a media briefing to mark the second anniversary of the 9th Senate under his leadership, pointed out that the National Assembly would continue to approve loan requests, which are for the provision of critical public infrastructure, which Nigerians cannot do without and for which the country had no choice than to obtain.
Lawan argued that for a country like Nigeria with serious infrastructure deficits, which can hardly raise taxes to finance its development projects, borrowing becomes the only option to ensure continuous progress and growth.
Lawan said, “The other alternative of not taking loans is for Nigeria not to do anything by way of not putting in place the required infrastructure like roads, rail lines, bridges etc, which is worse than taking loans.
“The N32.9 trillion debt we are having is a necessary burden for us to carry in fixing our infrastructure. Besides, the loans are not with burdensome constraints as being reported. Some are concessionary loans with no interest attached aside considerable years of moratorium given before re – payments.
“Many Nigerians are talking about the country’s debt profile. Before us in the Senate are two requests from the executive arm of government for loans that we have already approved to fund the 2021 budget. One is to construct critical infrastructure across the country. The second one is for investment in the agriculture and other sectors of the economy including mining. The amount also includes loans guaranteed by the Federal Government for some states.
“The N32.9 trn is not only for the Federal Government. Part of it belongs to the states. It is just that the Federal Government gives the guaranty,” he said.
Speaking on the relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive, Lawan explained that there was no need for unnecessary frictions between the two tiers of government, but constructive engagements, which has been yielding positive results for the government and Nigerians since they came into office.
Lawan argued that the resolve by the Ninth Assembly to collaborate with the Executive arm to work patriotically was borne out of its desire to achieve maximum democratic dividends for Nigerians and leave a legacy for the country.
According to him, the ninth assembly’s resolve to collaborate with the executive arm of government owed to its decision to work patriotically in the interest of Nigerians, reminding Nigerians that frosty relationships between the two in the past had often worked against the interest of Nigerians.
Lawan said: “In 2019 when we campaigned, we said when we are given the opportunity to serve in this capacity; we want to establish a working relationship based on mutual respect, cooperation, consultation, synergy and partnership with the executive arm of government.
“Not at the expense of our roles as the legislature, but we believe that we can get better outcome in terms of government delivering services to the citizens of this country. That is what informed our position.
“I can tell you we disagree with the executive, but the difference between us and what might have happened previously is that we are able to sit down and talk and say no, we are not accepting this one, you should withdraw it.”
Reacting to the recent ban of Twitter by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Lawan expressed optimism that the engagement between Nigeria and Twitter would resolve the contentious dispute.
He said, “The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, informed Nigerians that they are talking with Twitter to resolve this matter. And our belief is, Nigeria needs Twitter just as much as Twitter needs Nigeria.
“Our expectation is that this engagement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Twitter would resolve the dispute between Twitter and our government. But beyond that, I’m an optimist. I believe that all of us would have learnt our lessons.”
Lawan, who christened his speech ” BEHOLDING THE SILVER LINING IN NIGERIA, Lawan, expressed the optimism that despite the security challenges facing the country, Nigeria would come out stronger and better, adding that the worst was over.
“This is the worst situation that Nigerians have seen. It is going to be better for all going forward,” Lawan said.
Delving into the achievements recorded by the 9th Senate under his leadership, the Senate President announced that no fewer than 742 bills were introduced in the last two years out of which 58 have were successfully passed with 355 scaling through first reading and 175 going through second reading and are before relevant committees for further legislative actions.
Lawan also boasted that the 9th Assembly successfully broke the jinx of delayed budget by returning the annual budget cycle to January-December of each year to provide for certainty and proper planning and execution of projects captured in the budget.
“The restoration of the annual budget cycle of January-December is yet another milestone in the actions of our National Assembly towards accelerating economic transformation in our nation. Private sector economic activities in Nigeria are strongly influenced by policy pronouncements and actions of the government through the annual budgets.
“The annual budget contained key macroeconomic policy objectives and targets that are desired to be achieved by the government, hence serving as tools for corporate policy actions and projections. The persistent delay in the annual budget cycle created avoidable disruptions in corporate strategic planning and operations. Additionally, provision of social services and infrastructure were also distorted.
“With certainty in the annual budget cycle, a clear macroeconomic confidence and predictability is now infused into our national economic life, hence accelerating our drive towards economic development and prosperity for all.
“Complementary to the annual budget cycle of January-December restoration is the support given by the national assembly for our reverting to the culture of national development planning.
“The 9th Assembly is fully in support of the federal government’s effort towards the Nigeria Agenda 2030 long term plan and Medium-Term Plan 2021-2025, currently being conceived by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. We believe that having a clear linkage between our annual budgets with a medium-term national development plan would facilitate a more robust national development strategy anchored on macroeconomic stability, prediction and continuity in a more organized and structured manner for the ease of attainment of national development and prosperity.
“The role of the budget cycle in the circumstances is important. We remain proud of our achievement in this respect and are dedicated to sustaining it, not just through the lifetime of this senate, but to leave it as one more legacy,” Lawan boasted.
Going forward, Lawan promised that the NASS under his leadership would always be guided by national interest towards achieving social and economic transformation that would eventually usher in security and prosperity for the citizens of Nigeria.
But the Senate President frowned at the diversion of public funds by public officials and warned that henceforth waste and diversion of public funds would not be tolerated in the face of dwindling resources at the disposal of government.
“Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are enjoined to imbibe prudence and proper book-keeping, to prevent future exposures to allegations of infractions. We have a duty to strengthen our governance mechanisms, and institutions, in accordance with the reform drives of President Muhammadu Buhari and the administration.