The Senate on Thursday approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s $22,798,446,773.00 external loan request.
The President had requested for the loan to fund critical infrastructure projects under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing Plan.
Apart from approving the loan request, the Senate also approved a second recommendation of its committee: “That the Loan/Financing agreement containing the whole terms and conditions of the loan from the funding agencies be forwarded to the National Assembly prior to the execution of same for recurrence and proper documentation.”
But there was drama and disagreements before the senators approved the loan.
While some senators supported the approval, others kicked against it.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe engaged in a bit of argument over the loan.
Efforts were earlier made Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) to postpone the consideration of the report to another legislative day, but Lawan said such a postponement would be counterproductive. He said the findings and recommendations of the report would have been debated in the media before the consideration.
He advised that the report be considered to forestall such an eventuality.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Clifford Ordia (Edo Central), presented the report.
The funding agencies according to the report include the World Bank – $ 2 854,000,000; AfrIcan Development Bank (ADB) – $1,888,950,000; Islamic Development Bank (IDB) $110,000,000; Japan International Cooperation Agency (JlCA) – $200,000,000; German Development Bank (KFW) – $200,000,000; China Exim Bank – $17,065,496,773; and the French Development Agency (AFD) – $480,000,000.
This brought the grand total to $22,798,446,773.00.
Adamu Aliero wondered if the part of the loan would actually be used to build a road from Lagos to Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire.
He described the proposed application of the loan as lopsided and without geopolitical spread.
Aliero said: “Is Nigeria borrowing this money to construct these roads from Lagos to Abidjan? Are we so generous to consider this up to Abidjan?
“Secondly, the East-West road is a very good project and I support the inclusion of this project in the borrowing plan.
“If you look at other parts of the country, nothing is said about the Northeast. The application of this loan is lopsided and I want to say that other geo-political zones should also be considered.
Abaribe disagreed with Lawan’s observation.
He said: “Mr. President, I disagree with you on one aspect: saying this is part of our budget presupposes that this had come to us and we had approved it and then it was put in the budget for us to use. That is not the position. The position is that we would now approve some of these projects.
“It is when we get to the point of looking at each one of them that we will now determine which of these projects will help in growing our economy. Now, you have said we will take it line by line.”
Lawan disagreed with Abaribe, saying: “I didn’t say so. I said we are going to vote on the recommendations and the Minority Leader, you have been long enough in this Senate that there is nothing like line by line for this kind of report.
“It is normally the recommendations of the committee that are voted on.”
Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North) intervened, saying: “We, in the National Assembly and in the Executive, have not been tracking the utilisation of these loans to make sure they are invested in the right places, where revenue can accrue to the larger economy, to pay off the debts and to increase the revenue that come from investments. These are the issues.”
Albert Akpan Bassey averred that going to the recommendations of the report might not be proper.
Gabriel Suswam said: “This is a very contentious and important issue. I would appeal to you (Senate President) that you allow us go into executive session because there is certain information that I also have that will guide the house properly as it relates to the power sector that I do not want to say it in the full glare of the press.”