Senators laud government’s borrowing plan

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Chamber of the Senate

Nigerian Senators have described, as a welcome development, the borrowing plan of the present government, in the 2016 Appropriation bill currently being debated by the lawmakers.

Some of the Senators at the resumption of plenary on Thursday, said unlike previous governments where loans were taken to service recurrent expenditure, the current government would concentrate on borrowing to service Capital Expenditure.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Nigerian’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Dino Melaye, said though there was so much agitation about borrowing to finance the 2016 budget, there was nothing wrong with borrowing.

Senator Dino Melaye
Senator Dino Melaye

He added that the United States, which is the strongest democracy in the world, was the biggest borrowing nation and that the most important thing was utilizing the borrowed funds.

 “The question here is what do you do with what you are borrowing? In the past we borrowed but our performance was a beautiful nonsense. We have borrowed in the past and used it to the benefit of individuals. The Dasuki gate is a typical example. But this time we have a progressive government. We have men in power who will administer the administration of power with every sincerity of purpose of heart and commitment. Borrowing this time will be judiciously used to the benefit of all,” he said.

Speaking on diversification of the economy, Melaye said the budget would concentrate on sectors other than the oil sector to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians.

He called on other lawmakers to exercise their power by passing the budget irrespective of their party interests. He however solicited the senate to pay attention to the FCT budget, saying it was grossly inadequate.

Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi said the borrowing plan of the present administration was justifiable, adding that it was targeted at infrastructural development and other meaningful projects.

According to him, “It is on record that most of the debts this government is expected to service are corrupt debts. We are paying debts we don’t even know what they represent because some of the projects we are made to pay for are abandoned projects. We are not going to pay for debt that did not accrue benefit for Nigerians. If we are borrowing it is not to pay frivolities but infrastructural development and critical service providers so that at the end of the day the Nigerian people are the beneficiaries.’’

Senator Sabi further commended the Executive for making adequate provision for diversification of the economy and initiating plans on tackling unemployment among others.

However, the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujinmi said the level of expenditure and deficit were the major problems in the actualization of the budget. She said there was a need for the Federal Government to set up a solid economic team to take a better look at the budget.

senator-biodun-olujimiShe said while the economic problem was not limited to Nigeria, the country ought to be ingenious to bring about a budget of social change.

“Right now we have a deficit of 11 dollars on every barrel of oil we sell and in the budget we have a deficit of =N=2.2 trillion. Now, 11 dollar deficit will take that deficit to =N= 2.6 trillion and the problem is that if we need to borrow to manage this 2.6 trillion it means we will be borrowing =N= 500 million every day of this year. What this means is that every day of this year, this government will look for =N=500 million to borrow and that is not mean feat,” she argued.

The deputy minority whip further called for policies that would reposition the economy, adding that the frequency of policy somersaults in the country was not encouraging.

She stressed that while Nigeria could run with the budget for the time being, there was need for a better budget

Blame game

In his contribution, Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye reminded his colleagues that this was not the first time since 1999 that the National Assembly had given itself too short a time to do justice to the consideration of the country’s budget.

“Therefore, if we collect this, let us not blame any President, PDP or APC, let us blame ourselves here,” he cautioned.

“At the end of this exercise, within a month of passing this year’s budget, I promise to submit to this senate, a bill that would mandate our President and all future presidents regardless of their party to bring the budget in such a timely manner as will be determined by all of us so that we can do justice to the consideration of the budget. In a mature democracy, you will actually take this document to your people, they will have their input but we ourselves have denied ourselves such rights.”

If this budget will be respected, all of us must begin to cultivate the culture of respect for data. There must be sanctity for data: it is not enough to get up and spill blames on the other party and repeat platitudes that will not move this nation forward. Whether we like it or not, today oil is selling at $27.9 per barrel that is the reality that confronts all of us regardless of your party”.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday condemned the recent vandalisation of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region of the country.

In a briefing after the day’s plenary, the Senate appealed to all Nigerians to support the present government in its efforts to bring positive changes in every sector of the country’s economy.