Barely twenty-four hours after N895 billion supplementary budget scale second reading, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has disclosed that the National Assembly may shun new loan requests from President Muhammadu Buhari-led executive arm of government and that the lawmakers at the Red Chamber would ensure due diligence was followed before approving existing loan request.
He said that while the parliamentarians would remain committed to their oversight functions on every loan request, the Assembly would decline giving support to any request considered frivolous, including such bordering on loans from the executive.
Lawan stated this while speaking to State House Correspondents after a meeting with the president at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, adding that he had visited the number one citizen to discuss important national issues and proffer solution to challenges bedevilling the country.
He added that henceforth, approved loans would be monitored by the lawmakers and that coming request would be subjected to detailed scrutiny in line with mandates given to them by Nigerians, noting that during his watch, taxpayers money would be expended on developmental projects that would directly benefit the common man.
According to him, Nigeria is a poor country and will only be able to meet most of its development targets by acquiring loans, as it cannot over-tax the citizens and yet unable to strike public/private partnerships because of the unfavourable atmosphere across the country.
“What I want to assure Nigerians here is that we are not going to be frivolously supporting or approving loans for the executive arm of government. Whenever we have to approve any loan, we have to insist on the details of what projects will be funded by those by those loans.
“We’ll have to look at the conditions that are attached to the loans, they must be favourable conditions before we approve and we will be up to date with our oversight to ensure that what we have approved is directly deployed and on those projects that we have also approved for implementation. So, we will not be frivolous and will not take it lightly to just approve any loan. Our options are really very limited as a country. First, we don’t have the necessary revenues, Nigeria is poor we shouldn’t deceive ourselves.
“Nigeria is not rich, given the circumstances we live in, given the challenges we have; our resources are so low, our revenues are so low and therefore the option of not doing anything, just to sit because we have no money, we shouldn’t go for infrastructure development is not even an option worthy of consideration. You cannot keep the economy stagnant.Two, you cannot, in my view and judgement, tax Nigerians further for you to raise the money for infrastructure development. Other countries do that, but we have serious situation across the country, so you cannot put taxes on people.
“The other option is a public-private partnership. You need to create the environment to attract investors to come into our country because of the security challenges we face today. Not many investors would like to come to Nigeria, in fact, even those inside Nigeria may not like to invest properly in this sector of infrastructure development. So, the only option left is for us to borrow, borrow responsibly, utilise prudently and economically, and ensure that the projects are self-sustaining that they can pay back the loans that the Nigerian economy will benefit from the implementation of such infrastructure development.
“So that is the only option we have and I believe that Nigerians will understand, of course, it’s not desirable, it’s not something that we like too, no Nigerian would like to have, in fact, even an individual not like to be on loan, but when you must, then you have to, and I want to be very practical here that we do so with that feeling of ‘this is our country, we must move forward, we must provide the enabling environment for our economy to grow and Nigeria to develop,” Lawan said.