The House of Representatives has declared that it would not consider the request by President Muhammadu Buhari seeking its approval for an external loan of $29.96 billion (N9 trillion) until necessary details including the borrowing plan and sources of the loan are provided.
This is just as the House promised to kick-start the new legislative year with the 2017 appropriation bill, so as to avoid delay in the passage and eventual implementation of the budget.
The green chamber, however, promised to ensure a clean and transparent process in passing the budget.
Chairman of the House committee on media and publicity, Namdas Abdulrazak, in an interview with LEADERSHIP, noted that the House would consider the budget proposal upon resumption of plenary by January 10, 2017, but said his colleagues may not consider the loan request until the details, some of which the Senate had already requested are provided by the Presidency.
"The budget is the most important bill in the house and nobody can joke with it. We will consider the appropriation bill as soon as we resume in the new year, the $29.96 billion loan request is not dead in the House, we are still going to debate it," he said.
Recall that the Senate had on November 1, rejected President Buhari's external borrowing request, citing lack of documents supporting the request as referenced in the letter by the president.
When pointedly asked why the House had not considered the president's request, Namdas said since the loan request had suffered a setback at the upper legislative chamber, it would be fruitless to consider it at the lower chamber until the details required by the Senate are provided.
"You know that it suffered a setback in the Senate, and it cannot pass without concurrence of the two legislative assemblies, so anything we are doing will be an exercise in futility if the details required by the Senate are not presented. It then means that the details required by the Senate should be made available before the National Assembly will consider the request," Namdas stated.
He reiterated that the 2017 budget was the most important bill before the National Assembly at the moment, and assured that the House will ensure that it receives immediate attention for quick passage and timely implementation.
"Essentially, the 2017 budget proposal is the most important bill before the National Assembly and the House will treat it with urgency and expedite action on it," he added.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the president had in separate letters to the Senate and House of Representatives, explained that the $29.96 billion external loan was to promptly implement projects that cut across agriculture, health, education, and water supply.
The president, in the letter, noted that the projects and programmes under the external borrowing plan were selected based on positive technical economic evaluations, as well as the contributions they would make to the socio-economic development of the country, including employment generation, poverty reduction, and protection of the nation's vulnerable population.
He said some of the funds would be deployed to emergency projects in the North-east, particularly following the outbreak of polio after the de-listing of Nigeria from polio endemic countries.
The World Bank has provided a loan of $125 million for the federal government to procure vaccines and other ancillary facilities to stop the polio outbreak, and also provided $450 million to assist in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-east, the president disclosed.
The entire projects for the North-east, according to the president's letter, are: polio eradication support and routine immunisation ($125 million), community and social development projects ($75 million), Nigeria States and Health Programme Investment Project ($125 million), State Education Programme Investment Project ($100 million), Nigeria Youth Employment and Social Support Project ($100 million), and Fadama III Project ($50 million).
"Given the emergency nature of these facilities and the need to consolidate the peace and return the region to normalcy, and considering the time it would take to get National Assembly's approval, it has become inevitable to request for the National Assembly leadership's approval, pending the consideration and approval of the 2016-2018 borrowing plan by the National Assembly to enable us disburse these funds immediately," Buhari said in the letter.