CHUKWU DAVID reports on how Senator Ali Ndume, an ardent supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration, jettisoned diplomacy and tackled the executive over increasing borrowing and the quick manner the Senate approves such loan requests
The greatest challenge confronting the country under the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government is insecurity. This has made many Nigerians to call on the administration to declare a state of emergency on the security situation. However, as the country grapples with the issue of insecurity, another worrisome development, continuous and excessive borrowing of funds from local and foreign institutions, has raised dust in the polity. The borrowing has drawn divergent views from opinion moulders across the length and breadth of the country across party, geopolitical and religious divides.
While some vehemently condemn the penchant of the President to borrow and impose heavy debt burden on Nigeria, others argue in defence of the borrowing, saying that it is necessary to borrow and fund the budget, so as to provide the required infrastructural facilities to the citizens. One of those who recently shocked the nation with his criticism of the borrowing spree is Senator Ali Ndume, who is known as a blind supporter of President Buhari since he occupied the country’s highest political office in 2015.
Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, berated the APCled executive arm of government for excessive and increasing borrowing and expeditious approval of such requests by the National Assembly, particularly the Senate. He expressed his displeasure at a press briefing in Abuja, arguing that, though borrowing was not a crime he was seriously concerned that the thoroughness required during consideration for approvals of such loans are often not followed by the lawmakers. He pointed out that this is why Nigerians were suspicious of the members of the nation’s apex legislative Assembly and calling the federal lawmakers rubber stamp.
The lawmaker, who represents Borno South Senatorial District, further noted that some of such requests hurriedly approved in the past were yet to be granted. He explained further that in as much as loans or borrowings are required by government to address the problem of infrastructural deficit facing the country, they should be cautiously considered in the face of debt servicing getting to 80 or 90 per cent. His words: “Borrowing is not a crime but when the rate of debt services increases, which I understand is getting to 80 to 90 per cent, you have to be cautious; you have to look for alternative.
“There are some loans that are not just absolutely necessary; there are some that can be delayed, there are some that can be negotiated or renegotiated in terms of conditions attached to them. I think this is what the media should analyse and see whether it is necessary.
“We have infrastructural deficit in this country and all we hear is that when people come to Abuja and allocation is made, you don’t see anything happening. For me, is better to borrow that money and do the road instead of giving it out for people to collect it and go and spend it without accountability. “What I am worried about again is the way the Senate is handling it.
The Senate by definition is house of deliberation, when things like this come we don’t just rush and approve them. Such requests are supposed to be looked at critically by crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. Ask questions; carry the people you are representing along and not sit down here in the National Assembly, carrying out expeditious approvals which make the people we represent look at us with suspicion.
“They call us rubber stamp because we don’t carry people along. We rushed to approve certain borrowings, which up till now, have not been granted by targeted creditors.” Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has never seen anything wrong with borrowing. He has always tried to justify the act by noting that without borrowing, important infrastructural projects inserted in annual budgets would not be executed. According to him, the country is facing a huge infrastructural deficit, which the government is under obligation to fill the gap.
He also stresses the need for the government to ensure judicious application of loans being borrowed to put the necessary projects in place. To this effect, he has persistently given assurances that the Ninth National Assembly will step up its oversight functions on the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government responsible for projects implementation.
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