Senate, on Tuesday, rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to borrow $29.9 billion, explaining that the request, as presented, lacked the necessary detail on what the loan would be used for.
This is even as the Presidency, on Tuesday said it would provide the Upper legislative chamber the needed information it requires to consider the proposal.
The motion for the approval of the borrowing plan was unanimously thrown out as soon as it was mentioned, a move, which surprised even the Senate President Bukola Saraki, who put the question as to whether it should be considered or not.
The Senate Leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume, also expressed shock at the spontaneity by which his colleagues resisted the bid by the Senate President to convince them on the importance of the borrowing plan.
However, Ndume, while briefing journalists shortly after plenary, said that the borrowing plan was only technically rejected, explaining that the action by the Senate was not an indication that it was not in support of the bid for loan by the federal government.
He said, “I was shocked by the action of my colleagues on the $29.9billion external borrowing plan of the President. Being the marketer of such requests on the floor of the Senate, I felt bad that it didn’t sail through.
“But it will certainly be repackaged and represented for the needed approval.”
Ndume explained that non-attachment of details of the borrowing plan in the letter of request must have resulted in its rejection by the Senate, saying “there is nothing to worry about. The request will be represented to the Senate with the needed attachment in doing what is right.”
President Buhari had in his letter of request for the loan, stated that it would be used for infrastructure development across the country.
He explained that earmarked projects to be executed with the loan cut across all sectors with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation, poverty reduction through social safety net programmes, governance and financial management reforms, among others.
According to him, “the total cost of the projects and programmes under the borrowing (rolling) plan is $29.960billion made up of proposed projects and programmes loan of $11.274billion, Special National Infrastructure projects $10.686billion, Euro bonds of $4.5 billion and Federal Government budget support of $3.5billion.”
He explained further that the loan was very necessary in view of the serious infrastructural deficit, the nation was facing.
“Considering the huge infrastructure deficit currently being experienced in the country and the enormous financial resources required to fill the gap in the face of dwindling resources and the inability of our annual budgetary provisions to bridge the deficit, it has become necessary to resort to prudent external borrowing to bridge the financing gap, which will largely be applied to key infrastructure projects, namely power, railway and roads projects among others,” the president added.
Earlier during the plenary, Senators in a voice vote threw out the formal presentation of the loan request to the floor. This was after a motion was moved to that effect by the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume.
But, Director-General, Debt Management Office, Abraham Nwankwo, who spoke on a Channels TV guest programme, said the loan was so important and the government needed to take advantage of the soft terms of the loans covering three years, to help address the huge infrastructure deficit in the country.
The DMO D-G, said that the facility would help revive strategic infrastructure like railways, to smoothen movement of heavy goods across the country.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last week, urged the National Assembly to reject the loan request, saying if it is approved, it would mortgage future generations of Nigerians.
Similarly, lawyer and rights activist, Femi Falana, urged the lawmakers to reject the request, giving the same reason advanced by the PDP.
Speaking with journalists on Tuesday in Abuja, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senate, Senator Ita Enang, who noted that the Executive was not at war with the upper chambers, said that the presidency would engage the Senate by providing all the needed documents and materials for the approval of the loan.
Enang said: “We are not disputing with the distinguished Senate. There are certain information and details which will enable them to consider in detail and appropriately the request of Mr. President. So we are collating that information, the budget office of the federation, the debt management office, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Minister of Finance and the economic team; they are collating the information so that they can be submitted to the Senate to enable them take the appropriate decision.
“We would be engaging the Senate. We will not be disputing with them, but we will be engaging with them. When we present a matter before the legislature, it’s for them to consider and as they have considered, more information is needed and that information they are entitled to it and we would provide.”