Foreign Loan: Lawan queries ministries yet to appear before committee

Sentor President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan
Sentor President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday, queried some ministries for failing to appear before the Senate committee on local and foreign debts, to defend their borrowing plan request.

The ministries are Education, Power, Niger Delta, Humanitarian and Disaster Management and Water Resources.

Others are Health, Communications and Agriculture.

Mr Lawan gave the ministries a two-day ultimatum, saying they should appear latest by Monday.

The ministries are to defend their borrowing plan following President Muhammadu Buhari’s external loan request.

Mr Buhari had, on November 28, forwarded a request to the Senate to reconsider and approve the federal government’s 2016 to 2018 external borrowing plan.

The loan, he said, is to execute key infrastructural projects across the country between 2016 and 2018.

He also said the loan targets projects cuts across all sectors with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation.

The president had sent the same request to the eight Senate under Bukola Saraki in 2016. He had requested about $30 billion.

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Then, the lawmakers rejected the request, with a majority voting against it during consideration.

Mr Lawan’s query on Wednesday was sequel to a complaint made by the chairman of the committee, Clifford Ordia.

Mr Ordia complained that only eight of the 18 beneficiary ministries have appeared before the committee.

“I think it is important to note that approving a loan of over $22 billion is a very serious matter. We need serious explanation from the ministries to enable us submit our report to the Senate,” he said.

He also requested that the committee be given two more weeks to prepare and submit its report in view of this obvious delay in the ministries’ appearance – which was granted.

In his response, Mr Lawan noted that the Senate “is committed to ensuring that such important issues like the foreign loan request of the executive need to be treated with seriousness by both sides.”

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“The Senate is making every possible effort to ensure that we understand why the request. Therefore, we need details and information so that we take the appropriate decisions as quickly as possible.

“I will urge those ministries that have not appeared before the committee to do so between now and Monday. I believe this is an advice that will be taken very seriously by the agencies you have just read out.”

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, appeared before the committee, for defence.

The Ministers of Works, Babatunde Fashola; Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and Minister of State for Transport, Gbemisola Saraki, were also present to defend the borrowing plans of their ministries.

The Minister of Federal Capital Development Territory, Mohammed Bello, also appeared before the committee to defend the external borrowing plan request for the FCTA.

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