The Senate on Thursday blamed its rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari’s $29.960 billion external loan bid on the incompetence of presidential aides tasked with preparing the proposal.
This position was given by the Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Abdullahi, when he featured on a Channels TV breakfast programme, Sunrise, on Thursday.
The president, last week Tuesday, forwarded a request to the National Assembly to approve an external borrowing plan of $29.960 billion to execute key infrastructural projects across the country between 2016 and 2018.
Mr. Buhari said the external loan, the biggest in Nigeria’s history, will fund targeted projects cutting across all sectors with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation.
Other sectors, he said, are poverty reduction through social safety net programmes and governance and financial management reforms, among others.
But a week after the request was submitted, the Senate on Tuesday threw out the loan request without debate.
The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, later revealed that the president’s letter had no detailed information about the loan bid, even though the letter made reference to an “attached” breakdown in its first paragraph.
This was admitted by the Presidency through Mr. Buhari’s assistant on the Senate, Ita Enang, who said the government would work with relevant agencies to collate the needed information.
He noted that there was a line in the letter that read “attached”, but lamented “nothing is attached”.
He blamed the anomaly on officials who were responsible for helping the President on matters of communication.
“This is the reality unfortunately. We have to rethink position given to certain persons and people who are not competent should step aside.
“What is the Chief of Staff doing? What is the SGF doing?
“We have said it that some people are working to set the president against the legislature,” said Mr. Abdullahi.
Defending the Senate’s action, the spokesperson said since the president’s letter was not supported by detailed information, the lawmakers had nothing to work with.
Mr. Abdullahi however said “if all these things are addressed, the Senate is more than desirous” to consider the loan authorisation request.
As at June, Nigeria’s debt profile is N16.29 trillion, representing $61.7 billion at N283/$1 exchange rate, according to the Debt Management Office.
In the 2016 budget, N1.48 trillion is meant for debt servicing, far higher than the country’s N221.7 billion budget for health and the N369.6 billion for education.
The proposed 2016-2018 borrowing (rolling) plan of $29.960 billion is made up of proposed projects and programmes loan of $11.274 billion, special national infrastructure projects $10.686 billion, Euro bonds of $4.5 billion and Federal Government budget support of $3.5 billion.