The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) senators on Wednesday bickered over borrowing to fund the 2019 budget.
While PDP senators, who spoke during the debate on the general principles of the 2019 budget, said borrowing would be unhealthy for the nation, APC senators backed borrowing, saying borrowing would not be too much for the nation, as the money would be spent on infrastructural development.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu), Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi) and others cautioned the Federal Government against borrowing, even as Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi) and Bala Ibn Na’allah (APC, Kebbi) pointed out that the nation was strong enough to accommodate borrowing as the money would be used to develop it.
Ekweremadu said, “The Senate Leader mentioned that borrowing is becoming increasingly unsustainable and we must be able to caution ourselves before we mortgage the future of our children. Some countries are already in danger, including Indonesia, because of the borrowing they had in the past. For every money you borrow, there must be a day for payment.
“We must therefore be cautious. Yes, it is important that we address our infrastructural needs through appropriate financing but I believe there are other creative ways of funding these infrastructures, including public private partnership and concessioning.
“For us to depend on borrowing means that we are putting our future in jeopardy. Therefore, it is time for us to ensure that our debt to GDP ratio must not exceed acceptable level.”
Aliero, who said that the nation’s GDP was good enough to sustain the borrowing capacity, added: “I don’t believe that we are borrowing too much in as much as we are spending the money borrowed on critical infrastructural development.”
This is even as Barau Jibrin justified the $60 per barrel and the exchange rate, stating that the projections are good enough for the nation’s economy.
While Ali Ndume (APC, Bornu) said budget was never implemented in this country to a desirable level except in the 8th Senate where 70 percent implementation was achieved, Ibn Na’allah, said: “The fears being expressed in certain quarters on the issue of over-borrowing is misplaced in view of the nation’s population and resources.
“The fact that the economy can sustain the borrowing is good, considering the projects being funded with the money borrowed.”
Melaye, on his part, spoke on the implications of borrowing, adding that as it stood at present, the nation’s debt was above $40 billion, which was not healthy for the nation.
“Nigerian government and the parliament should be sorry about the budget.
“The Federal Government has spent $41 billion to cushion, maintain, and stabilise the naira. We no longer have enough foreign reserve to continue to cushion the effects of the devaluation of the naira.
“The price of crude has dropped to $50 from $60. This is very significant and has made the price of crude oil in the 2019 budget unrealistic and unrealisable.
“There is a drop in the internally generated revenue of the Federal Government. There is a drop in the revenue of the Nigeria Customs Service.
“The Federal Government has no money again to subsidise fuel subsidy. In the midst of this calamitous situation, how do we fund the 2019 budget?
“Are we going to fund it based on daily contributions? Are we going to borrow again? These are questions begging for answers.
“Our foreign reserve has been depleted. We are a chartered borrowing nation.
“Upon the announcement of Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the election, the stock market had lost over N300 billion.
“There will be devaluation of the naira. We cannot, as a nation, be borrowing again to fund the 2019 budget.
“Our external debt, as we speak today, stands at $23 billion, which is the highest in the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Not even under the military government did we have this type of borrowing. Our local debt today is over $20 billion, hence the nation owes over $40 billion, with the 60 percent incurred under the Buhari administration.
“Already, there is a plan by the executive to write the Senate to demand approval for another $12 billion to service the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail project.
“This will take our borrowings to over $60 billion. Why should we continue to borrow and put generations yet unborn in danger?”
Shehu Sani, who decried the collusion between the executive and the legislature on the issue of borrowing, said the military should be well audited and targeted specifically on areas of need.
He added: “There is need to withdraw the military from the civil service to enable them to concentrate on the protection of the nation’s territorial integrity.”
Speaking on how to generate money to fund the budget, Barnabas Gemade said receivables should be mobilised for appropriate funding, while at the same time blocking leakages.
“Government should block leakages in revenue. The issue of petroleum subsidy should not be politicised. Something should be done urgently to address that,” he said.
After much debate on the budget, the Senate adjourned sitting to Tuesday next week.
APC Senators Kick As Senate Debate Militarisation Of 2019 Poll Next Week
The All Progressives Congress (APC) senators on Wednesday kicked as the upper chamber of the National Assembly approved the commencement of debate, next week, on the militarisation of the 2019 general election.
The move to commence debate on the development followed a motion by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi) at the plenary.
Standing on order 42 of the rule book, Melaye said that the matter should not go un-debated, adding that by debating it, the electoral processes would be corrected.
The lawmaker called on President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the amendment of the Electoral Act so that the nation can be put on the part of progress.
Defending the move to debate the militarisation of the elections, the lawmaker said his decision to bring up the matter was for the sake of posterity.
Nigeria conducted her presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23 and the governorship and state Assembly elections on March 9.
Melaye said his point of order was not political, and stressed that the motion would help curb electoral malpractices in future elections.
He said: “What I am raising this morning has nothing to do with political parties.
“I want to bring before this Senate, the elections both on the 9th and 23rd in this country, and I believe that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not close our eyes to the happenings of those elections.
“I want that election to be debated on this floor. I want to bring a motion to be addressed by this Senate in the next legislative day so that the militarisation of the process, the abuses of this election, will not go undiscussed in this parliament for posterity sake.
“And so that solutions can be given and the president can also be properly advised and the Electoral Act be signed into law as we begin to prepare for future elections.
“This is my prayer. Let it be discussed as a Senate. We will debate and give accounts of what happened in our various senatorial districts with the vision of correcting electoral malpractices.”
When Senate President Bukola Saraki put the question before the lawmakers. There were shouts of “ayes and “nays”.
Saraki, however, ruled that the prayer be adopted. He said, according to the Senate’s standing order, only one-fifth of the lawmakers was required to support the prayer before it could be adopted.
“Distinguished colleagues, by the order, you only need one-fifth of the senators to support the motion. It will be taken in the next legislative day,” he said.
But Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, stood up to question Saraki’s ruling.
“A non-partisan motion was on the floor. You ruled. We didn’t hear the ruling. What was your ruling,” he asked amidst increasing noise.
For Bala Na’Allah, there was no motion. He said Melaye introduced himself as a ‘senator-elect’. “He was not speaking as a senator,” he added.
In a bid to calm the seemingly angry lawmaker, the Senate president again explained his ruling. He said the motion, when brought, would not be partisan.
He also said legal action would be taken where necessary and the motion would be debated at the leadership before it is placed on the order paper.
In the midst of the rowdiness, Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano) also stood up to question Saraki’s ruling again.
He quoted the order of the Senate which permits a lawmaker to challenge the opinion of the Senate President/the chairman.
“I don’t know your ruling on the motion.”
Amidst more noise, Saraki pleaded with his colleagues not to abuse the process of the plenary and move on to other important business of the day.