From Fred Itua, Abuja
Baring any last minute change, the Senate will in two weeks, approve a fresh loan of N2.343 trillion ($6.183 billion) for President Muhammadu Buhari to finance the capital components of the 2021 national budget.
The Senate, determined to approve the request, has mandated its Clifford Ordia-led committee on Local and Foreign Debts to hold a public hearing on the subject.This is coming amid public outcry against the loans taken by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan gave the directive yesterday, when the upper legislative chamber reconvened after a two-week break. This followed a point of order raised by Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi.
So far, the National Assembly has approved a total of $28 billion for President Buhari to fund critical infrastructure in various parts of the country. If eventually approved, it would take the total amount of loans approved by the National Assembly to $35 billion.
Buhari a fortnight ago, written to the Senate to approve N2.3 trillion ($6.183 billion) external borrowings to finance the 2021 budget deficit of N5.6 trillion.
The President said the loan would enable the Federal Government fund critical projects in health and education sectors, among others.
The Senate, about a month ago, approved $1.5 billion and €995 million external borrowings for Buhari-led Federal Government. The loans were part of the $5.5 billion and €995 million external borrowings President Buhari had, in May 2020, asked the Red Chamber to approve to finance various priority projects and to support state governments facing fiscal challenges.
Lawan, in a speech to mark the first anniversary of the Ninth Senate, had said: “In order to support and enable the government 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 government, the conditions of the facilities; before approving such borrowing requests.”
The Lawan Senate began its history of loans approval immediately it was inaugurated in June, 2019. In 2016, President Buhari forwarded a loan request of over $29 billion to Saraki-led Senate. The request was largely rejected as that Senate approved only $6 billion
When President Buhari forwarded the same request to Lawan-led Senate, it was approved despite outcry by senators from the Southeast who protested the exclusion of the geopolitical zone.