Senate probes N30trn loan obtained by Buhari

DESPITE sanctioning the approval, the Senate on Tuesday, February 20, resolved to probe the N30 trillion Ways and Means loan obtained by the administration of former president Muhammadu Buhari from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The upper chamber has, as a result, constituted an ad hoc committee to interrogate disbursement and usage of the loan.

The resolution was sequel to a report of the Joint Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Finance, National Planning, Agriculture, and Appropriation presented during the plenary.


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The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, announced the resolution after most senators supported it through voice votes.

Chairman of the joint committee, Abdullahi Abubakar, who presented the report, explained that the current economic hardship was caused as a result of the violation of the ways and means of debt.

Abubakar, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator representing Kebbi North, advised the Federal Government to settle the N30 trillion debt.

The lawmaker also urged the CBN to ensure repayment of various intervention programmes and loans to reduce the money supply.

Ways and Means is a loan facility through which the Central Bank of Nigeria finances the Federal Government’s budget shortfalls.

Senators indict 9th National Assembly

During the plenary, the lawmakers blamed the leadership of the immediate past Senate led by Ahmad Lawan for approving such huge advances for the Federal Government.

In his defence, the immediate past Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said his leadership approved a total of N23 trillion for the ways and means and not N30 trillion.

“What the 9th National Assembly approved or rectified in terms of ways and means was not 29 or 30 trillion. It was 22 trillion, but there was 819 billion to address very serious infrastructure dilapidation across the country.

“So, it was not 30 trillion. It was 22 trillion, and then, of course, the one we had made it almost 23 trillion. If we have ways and means that is 30 trillion today, that means something happened between then and now, and it is for the National Assembly to find out what happened,”  Lawan said.

He, however, urged his colleagues to investigate the approval and disbursement of funds under the ways and means.

“If there were expenditures done wrongfully in contradiction to the provision of the Constitution, the National Assembly can look at the expenditures, and if sanctions are needed for unlawful, wrong, or unauthorised expenditures, the National Assembly can provide the sanctions.

“Nobody in this chamber should suggest that we shouldn’t look into anything that we feel is in the public interest, but let me say this very clearly: what Nigerians want today is food and security. How are we going to provide food for Nigerians and protect their lives?”.

The ICIR reported at different times how the CBN violated lending to the Federal Government by exceeding the threshold stipulated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.






     

     

    There were concerns over failed oversight by the senators who sanctioned the approval without following what the Fiscal Responsibility Act said.

    According to the Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, the National Assembly flouted its oversight function as mandated by the Act establishing it by not insisting on the details of what the ways and means approved funds were spent on.

    “If the National Assembly members had insisted on the breakdown and had done a cost-benefit analysis of the approval, they would have discovered probably that some of the funds were misappropriated. They flouted the law that empowered them for oversight,” Onyekpere said.

    “The National Assembly is mandated by the Constitution to act as an agent of accountability through its oversight mechanisms, but failed,”Onyekpere added.

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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