Senate may approve Buhari’s $30bn loan request- Lawan

Senate President Ahmad Lawan has explained why the Senate may approve President Muhammadu Buhari’s $30 billion loan request.

Lawan also defended the N37 billion cash for the renovation of the National Assembly.

President Buhari, on November 28, 2019 requested the Senate to approve external loan of $29.96billion to execute key infrastructural projects across the country as part of the 2016- 2018 borrowing plan.

Buhari, in a letter to the Senate President, said that he decided to re-present the loan request part of which was rejected by the Eight National Assembly to finance key projects in different sectors of the economy.

But the $29.96 billion loan request has continued to attract criticism with some stakeholders warning that the borrowing would become too burdensome on the country.

Others also warned that the unending borrowing would mortgage the future of the country.

But Lawan noted that it is true that the Eight Senate rejected the loan request due to insufficient details.

He said that in re-presenting the request, the Presidency added every possible details to aid the consideration and passage of the request by the upper chamber.

He added that Senate would not only have the details but also ensure that it seeks necessary explanations from the Presidency to ensure that it is taking the right decision on the loan request.

The situation, he said, is not the same because in 2016 there were no sufficient details.

According to him, this time around, the executive has learnt its lessons and the letter came with sufficient details.

Lawan said: “About the loan, it is true that in 2016, the Senate did not accept to pass the loan request of the executive at that time and the reason was because there were no sufficient details.

“I want to inform this gathering and indeed Nigerians that the letter conveying the loan request of the executive, came with every possible detail and in fact, we would definitely ensure that we don’t have only the details but also some explanations to ensure that we are taking the right decision because of the right information from the executive arm of government. So the situation is not the same.

“In 2016, there were no sufficient details. This time I think the executive has learnt its lessons and the letter came with sufficient details.”

On the renovation of the National Assembly he said: “When we came in, we noticed that many parts of the National Assembly Complex are dilapidated.

“And we convened a meeting of the management of the National Assembly, the FCDA, and then it was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory.

“The Speaker and I had a very exhaustive engagement with them. We met Mr. President, the Speaker and I and told him the condition of the National Assembly Complex. Since the take over of that complex, there was never, ever any major rehabilitation or renovation 20 years ago.

“Mr. President responded by telling us that he is going to renovate the National Assembly complex and we went back and continued to engage with the management of the National Assembly, FCDA to make sure what is required for Phase I renovation and that is where we are sitting, the domes of both the House and the Senate, and our committee rooms in the White House.

“N37 billion was sourced and it was put under the FCDA not National Assembly.

“All we require is to have the national assembly complex renovated including the reconfiguration of the two cambers and of course, including the Press Centre.

“We have the opportunity in 20 years to embark on the renovation of the phase I building of the National Assembly. When we are through with Phase I then we will go to Phase II. The complex is not under the control of the National Assembly. It is a national asset for the FCDA to take care of.”

Lawan said that he never said because the National Assembly passed the Production Sharing Contract (amendment) bill, the country did not need to borrow again.

He said: “I can’t remember saying anything like that. So, it is the same with the Finance Bill. One thing I said is that with the passage of the Production Sharing Contract Bill, Nigeria will get more revenues.

“Recall that before the passage of the amendment, Nigeria would have been earning $260million annually from the PSC. “With this passage of the amendment and at the rate of $60 per barrel, Nigeria will earn about $2billion in 2020.

“This is a vast increase and definitely, having N160 billion as source of funding the 2020 budget under the PSC, and when you add over N400 billion it is either you have a reduction in the deficit or you add some more projects. That is the difference.

“In the 2020 MTEF, what was projected is an N160 billion from the PSC, but after we passed the Bill, now that amount will catapult to about N450billion, that is a difference of close to N290 billion.

“That means we can reduce our deficit but certainly not eliminate it because the deficit is huge.

“The same thing with the Finance Bill. So I believe that we can reduce the deficit as a result of more revenues coming from the Finance bills but for now it would take a little bit of time to eliminate our deficit completely or not to borrow at all.

“The question of whether we are going to pass the loan request of the executive arm of government, yes, if you don’t have money and you have projects that after you do them, will not only provide the infrastructure that you need but will also bring money, nothing will really militate against the passage.

“But one thing is that we are going to be critical, that every cent that is borrowed is tied to a project and that these are projects that should have spill over effects on the economy and we will undertake our oversight so well that such funds are properly, prudently, economically and transparently  applied on those projects.”

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