Senate gives panel 14 days to tidy Buhari’s fresh N2.3tr loan request

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The Senate has given its Committee on Foreign and Local Debts 14 days to process President Muhammadu Buhari’s fresh N2.343 trillion ($6.183 billion) loan request.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, gave the directive at the commencement of yesterday’s plenary shortly after the Senate Majority Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, drew attention of the upper legislative chamber to the pending proposal.

The Senator Clifford Ordia-led panel has so far approved $28 billion of such facilities. The current request would increase the amount to $35.683 billion.

Making the demand two weeks ago, Buhari informed the Red Chamber that the loan was to finance the 2021 budget deficit of N5.6 trillion.

He said the external borrowing would enable the Federal Government to fund critical infrastructure projects in health, education, and others.

The Senate, barely a month ago, approved $1.5 billion and €995 million credit for the current administration. In a speech to mark the first anniversary of the Ninth Senate, Lawan had noted: “In order to support and enable the government to raise the necessary funds for national development, there were requests for approval to borrow, both from the domestic and foreign sources.

“We have approved foreign loans of about $28 billion in the last one year. We had ensured proper scrutiny for the desired projects and programmes of the government and the conditions of the facilities before approving such borrowing requests,” he said.

The chamber began its history of loan approvals immediately after it was inaugurated in June 2019. In 2016, President Buhari forwarded a loan request of over $29 billion to Bukola Saraki-led Senate. The proposal was largely rejected, as the Assembly approved only $6 billion.

When Buhari forwarded the same request to the Lawan-led Senate, it was sanctioned despite outcry by lawmakers from the Southeast, who protested exclusion of the geopolitical zone from the list of beneficiaries.

BESIDES, a national public hearing to alter the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) would be held between tomorrow and the day after at the African Hall of the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

The Senate President made the announcement yesterday in Abuja, after receiving a letter from the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.

Lawan described the zonal public hearings, which took place last week in the six geo-political zones, as “quite successful.”

He appealed to Nigerians to seize the opportunity provided by the event to state their positions on issues that border on governance.

SIMILARLY, Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had stated yesterday that the ongoing constitution review process had provided an avenue for restructuring the government for effectiveness and reorganising the political structure for more inclusiveness.

He added that the process also provides an opportunity to enshrine efficient mechanisms for holding the institutions of state to account and put an end to the debilitating conflicts that are currently tearing Nigeria apart.

In his remarks at the opening of the Lagos leg of the public hearings, the Speaker pledged: “We will do what is necessary to achieve these outcomes because all of us in the House recognise that this moment in our history is fraught with promises and perils, as the future of our country lies in our hands.”

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