Abuja — President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, yesterday raised the alarm over alleged sabotage of the President Muhammadu Buhari government's effort to provide critical infrastructure in the country by some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Lawan gave those he identified as erring MDAs one week to appear before the relevant committees of the upper chamber or face the wrath of the law.
He said despite several invitations extended to them by the Local and Foreign Debt Committee of the Senate, the MDAs had consistently refused to appear to justify projects listed for funding through the loan requests sought by Buhari.
Reacting to the refusal by MDAs to justify some listed projects, Lawan described their action as an act of sabotage that would not be condoned by the National Assembly. He listed the erring MDAs to include the Federal Ministry of Power, Federal Ministry of Heath, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, and Federal Ministry of Environment.
Lawan said some ministries and agencies of the federal government that should have appeared before the Senate Committee on a Loan and Foreign Debts to defend the debt request by the executive arm of government had failed to appear.
"The senate considers this attitude as a sabotage to the effort of the federal government to secure the loans and fund the infrastructural development that this country desperately needs," Lawan said.
He added, "Already, the National Assembly has approved the loan request, but there is need for justification.
"I will, therefore, call the names of these MDAs, and we are giving them just one week to appear before the Committee on Loan and Foreign Debts.
"If they fail to appear, we will take appropriate and prompt action, because this senate will not condone any sabotage to the efforts of this administration to provide infrastructure to this country."
The senate had on July 15 approved Buhari's external loan request to the tune of $8,325,526,537 and €490,000,000 under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan.
The president Buhari had in another request contained in a letter read on September 14 sought the approval of the senate to borrow an additional sum of $4,054,476,863 and €710 million Euros.
Buhari explained that the loans were needed to fund projects listed in the addendum to the 2018 to 2021 federal government external borrowing plan.
According to him, the projects are to be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, China Exim Bank, International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), Credit Swiss Group, and Standard Chartered, in the credit total sum of $4.5 billion, 710 million euros and grant component of $125 million.
Meanwhile, the senate yesterday suspended plenary till November 9 after it passed for second reading the 2022 Appropriation Bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday.
The upper chamber took the decision to suspend plenary for close to one month to allow its committees begin 2022 budget defense sessions with heads of MDAs. It suspended sitting after concluding debate on the general principles of the 2022 Appropriation Bill, which began on Tuesday.
No fewer than 42 senators took turns to make their contributions during the second and final day of debate on the 2022 Appropriation Bill.
Contributors included Senators Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Adelere Oriolowo, Patrick Akinyelure, Ibrahim Gobir, Smart Adeyemi, Ibrahim Abdullahi, George Thompson Sekibo, Christopher Ekpenyong, Betty Apiafi, Mohammed Musa, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Michael Nnachi, and Yahaya Oloriegbe.
Others were Matthew Urhoghide, Francis Fadahunsi, Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru, Anayo Rochas Okorocha, Oyelola Ashiru, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, Hezekiah Dimka, Binos Dauda Yaroe, Chukwuma Frank Ibezim, Olalekan Mustapha, Chukwuka Utazi, Abba Patrick Moro, Danladi Sankara, and Isah Jibrin.
In his contribution, Danbaba underscored the need for the federal government to include Public-Private Partnership as a way to fund the provision of critical infrastructure needed for economic development.
Adeyemi called for the urgent diversification of the economy through mining, adding that there are abundant mineral resources yet to be exploited by the federal government.
Sekibo advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to come up with policies that would help stabilise the country's exchange rate over a period of time. He lamented that the implementation of capital projects in the 2022 budget proposal were tied to borrowing.
In his contribution, Ekpenyong called for the scrutiny and tinkering of the budget estimates by the National Assembly, to ensure that it reflected the needs and met the expectations of Nigerians.
On her part, Apiafi protested the exclusion of some states as beneficiaries of the loan to be sourced by the federal government. According to her, some states, such as Rivers, do not stand to benefit from the loan through projects, but are among those to repay the loan obtained by Nigeria.
She also called on the federal government to give special attention to the power sector, adding that doing so would attract and promote private investments.
Musa said the 2022 budget outlook was good, saying, "Nigeria's debt level is sustainable."
He urged the federal government to ensure that borrowed funds were applied to critical projects.
According to him, more attention should be given to revenue generation and the country's tax framework.
After scaling second reading, Lawan referred the 2022 Appropriation Bill to the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative work.
The committee, which is chaired by Senator Jibrin Barau, was given four weeks to report back to plenary.
Lawan, in his concluding remarks said, "I want to also appreciate senators for the sacrifice in processing, consideration and passage of the 2020 and 2021 Appropriation Acts. That devotion, commitment and dedication certainly saw us succeed in passing the previous bills.
"I'm sure that we are ready to repeat the feat of passing the Appropriation Bill 2022 before the end of December.
"Distinguished colleagues, I agree with those of us who raised the issue of revenue generation, collection and remittances to the coffers of the federal government.
"The agencies that are supposed to collect and remit revenues would have to be tasked, and this 2022 Appropriation Bill shows we have over 400 billion coming, especially from these agencies as additional revenues. We need to do better.
"Government agencies must remit revenues that they generate. We need to also invest in our people, dedication for our youth particularly and, of course, health."
Lawan said borrowing was not bad. "What we need to do is to ensure that what we borrow is prudently deployed in those areas of capital infrastructural development," he said.