Borrowing without end
Nigeria appears to be in a chokehold, and struggling for breath, as President Muhammadu Buhari leads a borrowing spree with the National Assembly giving tacit support.
Last Tuesday, the upper legislative members approved a loan of $5.513 billion for the President to finance the revised 2020 budget. The approval came after the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts presented by its Chairman, Clifford Ordia.
The committee had concurred with the President, and indeed most Nigerians, that the COVID-19 pandemic was sufficient reason for a revision in the 2020 budget.
It said, “Such impact has affected the revenue generation plan of the government leaving it with a larger deficit than envisaged.”
Upon approval of the loan, the Senate also approved lenders for the Federal Government’s priority projects: The AFDB – $125million to strengthen healthcare system and improve response to COVID-19, and $23 million for financing smallholder farmers to mitigate food security impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Also, there was another $600 million from the Islamic Development Bank to support Nigeria’s response to challenges posed by the pandemic and $500 million from the African Export-Import Bank to provide critical Medical supplies to combat the pandemic.
The inclination towards unrestrained borrowing has, no doubt, become a subject of nation-wide debate.
Till date, Buhari is alleged to have borrowed more money than any of his predecessors, setting up a debt trap that could ultimately choke future generations.
While the Buhari administration argues that the funds are needed to bridge infrastructure gaps, many are not convinced by the results they see on ground.
Members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), for instance, had averred that the growing national debt was a cause for concern as the debt profile spiraled from N12.6 trillion in 2015 to N26.2 trillion in Q3 2019, an increase of 108%.
Is the lawmaking arm of government in deep slumber as critics allege? The question becomes relevant in the face of seeming lack of rigorous debates to checkmate the President’s rising appetite for borrowing.
Indeed, would it be an overstatement to accuse the Nigerian legislature of being a rubber stamp institution?
Unless the National Assembly reinvents itself in character and conduct, its current reputation for standing akimbo, while the President gobbles external debts, will see its name being continuously dragged in the mud.
Though it is true that even the biggest economies are also stewed in debts, Nigeria must learn to borrow wisely and strategically.
NASS MEMORY LANE
“So, my bill is not to gag the press, but to regulate in a way in which we can conduct ourselves in the most civilized way using the internet?”
Answer: See end of post.
Two other stories
N1.8 trillion down the drain?
The eyes of the National Assembly are now fixed on investigating how over N1.8 trillion of Nigerian government interventions in the power sector from 2012 to date were expended. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Gabriel Suswam, disclosed this last Thursday.
Suswam revealed that the committee would focus on all interventions in the sector since it was privatized. While lamenting on the never-ending epileptic power supply in the country, he claimed that the federal government had at different times committed the sums of N701 billion, N600 billion, and this year, N380 billion and N213 billion to the troubled sector.
“The investigation is intended to identify why these interventions have come and there has been no improvement,” Suswam said.
Among those expected to appear before the committee to be probed are the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Ministry of Finance because most of the interventions came from them, and the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Presidential Power Initiative.
The performance of the nation’s power sector remains a huge embarrassment, having failed woefully to bring light to the doorsteps of Nigerians.
While a fresh probe may be welcome, it is doubtful what may become of its outcomes. Lacking in any power to apply sanctions, the Suswam committee can best be described as a toothless bulldog.
What would be the essence of the investigation if the people fingered with mismanaging the money are not prosecuted?
It’s a shame that the country is about to embark on another wasteful venture that would amount to a mere formality.
Only a forensic audit that would hold culpable Nigerians accountable and bring them to book is desirable. The senate must consider rethinking its advocacy strategy, if there is, indeed, any.
Will stiffer penalty end the rape saga?
Depressing and gruesome stories of rape cases litter every corner of the Nigerian landscape. It was in recognition of this that the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, last Tuesday, solicited for stiffer penalties against culprits.
He made the call after Senator Sandy Onor delivered a motion on increasing cases of rape and brutality against the girl-child in Nigeria.
Lawan declared: “We stand together shoulder to shoulder on this, and I think we need to make the penalties for rape stiffer to be sufficient deterrent for those who are involved in this, or who even desire to be involved. We have to save our future, and these girls and women are the future of this nation.”
Onor, while delivering his motion, cited the case of one Tina who was hit by a bullet, on May 26, when a trigger-happy policeman opened fire on a bus in Lagos. She was reported dead after spending two days in the hospital.
In another instance, the Senator mentioned the case of 100-level undergraduate of University of Benin, Uwa Omozuwa, who was brutalised and raped at her church.
He argued that the physical, psychological, and emotional effects of rape and brutality on young girls might affect them for the rest of their lives.
The Senate, thereafter, charged the State Houses of Assembly to amend the penal and criminal code to make the penalties for rape and sexual assault stiffer so as to act as a deterrent to perpetrators.
Rape and, indeed, any other social ill is unacceptable as their long term effects are bound to distort societal progress. The senate must determine to see through its proposed amendments while encouraging State Houses of Assembly to do the same.
Pushing for reforms in the penal and criminal code must be taken as one of national emergency.
Answer: Mohammed Sani Musa
The statement was made by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa who introduced the controversial Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, also known as the Social Media Bill to the Senate on November 5, 2019.
The Senator’s explanation became imperative following the wild outrage and condemnations that trailed it.
By John Chukwu…
- BREAKING: 126 new cases of COVID-19 take Nigeria’s total to 58,324; death toll now 1,108 - September 27, 2020
- Suspected herdsmen abduct Catholic priest in Delta - September 27, 2020
- Airline operators opt out of labour strike - September 27, 2020