By Dipo Olowookere
Six Senators have been appointed to look into the request by President Muhammadu Buhari to obtained a loan of about N4.2 trillion through the issuance of promissory notes and bonds to settle local debts.
The President had in a letter to the Senate said “the promissory note and bond issuance program has become imperative toclear obligations, which in clude unpaid obligations to pensioners, salaries and promotional arrears
of civil servants; obligation to petroleum marketers; contractors and suppliers debt.
“Other issues for which the loan is being sought according to the President, are unpaid power bills and obligation from tariffs reversal in 2014; export expansion grant; judgement debt and refunds to state government for projects undertaken on behalf of the Federal Government.’’
At the plenary today, the Senate Leader, Mr Ahmed Lawan, raised a motion on the consideration of the President’s request, which was read on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
He had asked the Senate to refer the matter to the appropriate committee for further legislative action, but the Deputy Senate President, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, objected, saying there were some issues in need of special attention.
According to him, it is forbidden under the Fiscal Responsibility Act to borrow money to pay for the current items.
President wants to issue bonds and promissory notes to pay “inherited debts” like pension arrears, including for former employees of the defunct Nigeria Airways, local contractors, subsidy and others.
“Looking at this request and the letter earlier written to us by the President, there are a number of issues involved which include payment of pensions, salaries, subsidy and some refund to states for federal projects executed by them.
“In view of the multi-dimension of this and of course the controversy regarding borrowing money to pay for the current item, which is forbidden under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, I think we should set up an appropriate ad-hoc committee to look at the issues together and see which of them can be recommended to this Senate for approval, while the other technically deficient and controversial ones can then be sent back to the executive to decide what to do,” the Deputy Senate President said.
After the arguments, the Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, announced the setting up of an ad-hoc committee to critically look into the request and recommend actions to take.
The six senior lawmakers appointed to look into the matter are Senators Emmanuel Paulker, Monsurat Sunmonu, Danjuma Goje, Shehu Sani, Rafiu Ibrahim and Francis Alimikhena with Mr Alimikhena as the Chairman.
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