Nothing will militate against the passage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for a $30 billion loan to facilitate some infrastructural projects, Senate President Ahmad Lawan has said.
However, the lawmakers “are going to be critical that every cent that is borrowed is tied to a project”, he added.
If Lawan’s assurances on Monday are anything to go by, the country’s loan portfolio will rise to a whopping $51 billion (about N19 trillion at N350 to the dollar) in the new year, if the country draws down on the loan.
The last Senate withheld approval for the loan in the last Senate because the Presidency did not provide details of the projects the loan will be spent on. Lawan gave the impression on Monday this has now been done.
The Eighth Senate was to later approve a $4 billion loan following another presentation by President Buhari. It is not clear if this figure has been deducted from the fresh request for the nearly $30 billion request.
But experts, including former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Emir Lamido Sanusi of Kano, have in the past doubted if Nigeria can source such quantum of loan because of her irregular exchange rate.
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate Lawan, has said the Ninth National Assembly will do things differently to break the jinx with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) next year.
The upper chamber, according to Lawan, will as a matter of urgency prioritize the consideration of the Petroleum Industry Bill alongside reforms of the Electoral Act when it returns from the Christmas break in January.
The Senate President made this disclosure at a media briefing of Editors, Bureau Chiefs and members of the Senate Press Corps on Monday in Abuja.
“The Petroleum Industry Bill was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2007 but is yet to be passed in its entirety.
“The National Assembly will this time around adopt a different approach to make the passage of the PIB a reality.
“We want to see a situation where the Legislature and the Executive work very closely to have a PIB that will attract investment into the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
“We want to create an investment climate that will be competitive. We know some other countries have this product; therefore we have to be competitive. We have to create an environment where the businesses make profit.
“This is a journey that involves everyone. We want both government – and that includes the legislature and executive – on the one hand and other relevant stakeholders in the sector, particularly the IOCs (International Oil Companies) to work together to ensure that this environment we are trying to create is an environment that will work for all of us.
Lawan said the Electoral Reforms Bill is also of great priority to the National Assembly.
“The Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill is a priority because of the urgent need to improve our electoral processes and secure the democratic gains that we have made in the Fourth Republic.
“We want to pass the Bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 and avoid the political heat and pitfalls that imperiled the efforts of the eight National Assembly which passed the same bill close to the last general elections.
“We are not oblivious of the interest and concerns some of these bills have generated from the public. But, we must not forget that lawmaking is a rigorous process that allows for all sides of the argument to be heard and the true will of the people established before a bill becomes law.”
“This Senate and indeed the ninth National Assembly will not pass any bill that is not in the national interest. Ours is and will remain a Senate that will always work for Nigerians,” Lawan said.
The Senate President stated that in the last six months of his Presidency, the Senate recorded a feat with the passage of six critical bills needed to accelerate the Nigerian economy.
He added that the bills would complement the successful implementation of the 2020 budget which was recently passed by the National Assembly and return the country’s annual budget cycle to the Janaury-December timeline.
Among the critical bills passed are: The Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act and the Finance bills.
“The three other bills that we have passed are the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) Bills, 2019, which we did to sanitise the public procurement process and curtail the incidence and influence of corruption.
According Lawan, “Aside from the six bills that were passed, 185 Bills have also gone through first reading in the ninth Senate, while 32 other Bills have passed second reading and are now undergoing the necessary further legislative processes at the relevant Senate Committees.”
He added that, “As part of its statutory roles, the ninth Senate has also confirmed 12 key appointments, including those of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ministers of the Government of the Federation, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria; and chairmen and members of eight Commissions, Services and Corporations.
“Presently, we are screening the Presidential nominees for the National Hajj Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCOM).
“The Senate is also likely to pass the 2020 Budget for the Federal Capital Territory before we embark on our Christmas and New Year recess.
The Senate President stated that the Senate has, within the past six months, received 78 public petitions which were referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
Most of these petitions, according to Lawan, were presented by private citizens with grievances against agencies or agents of government.
“The committee has so far examined nine of the petitions, concluded its investigations and laid its reports on the table.
“The Committee is also working on the other petitions with a view to satisfactorily addressing the grievances behind them”, he said.
Fielding questions on the non-payment of severance allowances for legislative aides who served in the Eighth National Assembly, the Senate President disclosed that all affected aides will be paid their entitlements by the end of this week.
He added that the sum of N37 billion was budgeted for in the 2020 fiscal year to renovate the facilities in the National Assembly which have been in use over the last twenty years.
Lawan, however, stressed that the Federal Capital Territory Administration would be responsible for the renovation and not the National Assembly.
“Thirty-seven billion naira was sourced and put under the Federal Capital Territory Administration not under the National Assembly.
“All we require is to have the National Assembly complex renovated, including the reconfiguration of the two chambers,” he said.