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How Lawan passed $22.79bn loan despite senators opposition, ‘We won’t allow funds diversion’, SP says

Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnanya Abaribe and other lawmakers were flabbergasted that project details of the loan request were not attached to the report by the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts. He was shut down. FILE PHOTO

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Despite the groundswell opposition by Nigerians and some Senators over the huge $22.79bn foreign loan request by the Buhari administration and its impact on future generations, Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Thursday used legislative tactics to shutdown minority lawmakers and passed the bill.

“Let me emphasis here, that we are going to follow very strictly how these funds are applied by the executive arm of government”, Lawan told aggrieved senators who were infuriated that no details were fully attached to the loan request and report presented by Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Clifford Ordia.

Senator Lawan was quick to assure Nigerians that the National Assembly will take full responsibility for the application of President Muhammadu Buhari’s $22.79 billion loan request to various projects domiciled with Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, a statement from his office said.

The Senate approved the loan request at Thursday’s plenary despite mounting opposition led by Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnanya Abaribe which later culminated into an executive session to assuage aggrieved senators.

Senator Lawan while expressing optimism that the loan will turn around the economic fortunes of the nation, said its strict application to relevant projects will be supervised by Committees of the National Assembly.

“Our Committees must be prepared to ensure that no single dollar or cent is spent on any other thing outside of what has been indicated here.

“We pray that this loan will turn around the economy of Nigeria. It is our belief that this loan will definitely have some positive influence on the Gross Domestic Growth (GDP) of this country, and therefore, we want to assure Nigerians that as a Chamber of the National Assembly, we will be responsible and ensure that no funds approved here are utilized for something else or used in uneconomic or imprudent manner.

“This is our responsibility and we will ensure we do that”, the Senate President assured.

The approval came sequel to the adoption of the recommendations of the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts which was considered during plenary.

The decision to adopt the committee’s recommendations was reached during a closed session which lasted 40 mins to assuage aggrieved lawmakers and to deliberate on the projects for which the loan is being sought.

Moments before the closed session, some lawmakers objected to the consideration of the committee’s report after it was presented by the committee Chairman, Senator Ordia (PDP – Edo Central).

Senator Adamu Aliero (APC – Kebbi Central), posited that members of the upper chamber be availed the opportunity of studying the report for consideration ahead of Tuesday next week.

Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP – Akwa-Ibom North East) also shared the suggestion put forward by Aliero.

The Senate President, however, attempted to sway his colleagues explaining that it is the Senate’s prerogative to discuss the report first before it is dissected by members of the public.

Other lawmakers such as Senators Gabriel Suswam (PDP – Benue North East); and Olamilekan Adeola (APC – Lagos West) insisted that the report be considered immediately on the floor.

Midway through consideration of the report, Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in an attempt to register his objection to the adoption of the Committee’s recommendation came under order 43 of the Senate Standing rules.

The Senate President asked Abaribe to read the provisions of the order.

Senator Abaribe, who read the order in part, was further asked by the Senate President to read it in full.

The order on Personal Explanation reads: “By the indulgence of the Senate and the leave of the President of the Senate, a Senator may make a Personal Explanation although there be no question before the Senate; but no controversial matter may be brought forward nor may debate arise upon the Explanation.

“The terms of the proposed statement shall be submitted in detail to the President of the Senate when his leave to make it is sought.”

On the basis of the order, Abaribe was overruled by Senator Lawan for his failure to comply with the provisions of the standing order which requires that any matter to be brought to the floor must first be discussed with, or submitted in writing to the Senate President.

Rising under order 11, Abaribe again expressed his frustration citing breach of privilege.

The lawmaker’s insistence met another brick wall as the Senate President took up the lawmaker for attempting to polarize consideration of the report along party lines.

Lawan, at this point, prevailed on lawmakers to put the interest of the nation ahead of partisanship in the interest of Nigerians.

Lawmakers such as the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi and Gabriel Suswam, who instantly threw their weights in support of the Senate President, suggested that consideration of the projects for which the loan is being sought by President Buhari be looked into at a closed session.

The Senate, thereafter, held a closed session, after which President Buhari’s loan request was unanimously approved.

Sectors to benefit from projects captured are: Transport sector – the Lagos-Kano Railway Modernization Project; Ibadan-Kano Segment Double Track to cost $5,530,000,000; Railway Modernization Coastal Railway Project (Calabar-Port Harcourt-Onne Deep Sea Port Segment) to cost $3,474,000,000.

For the Federal Capital Territory, projects captured are: Greater Abuja Water Project to cost $381,095,037; and Abuja Mass Rail Project at $1,252,293,005.

Development of Nigeria’s mining industry project is pegged at $150,000,000; Nigerian Television Authority Digitalization Project to cost $500,000,000; East- West Road Project under the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, $800,000,000; Education Sector Reform Programme renamed Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) at $500,000,000.

Other projects include: National Information and Communication Technology InfrastructuralBackbone by Galaxy Backbone (Phase II), $328,108,731; Agricultural Transformation Project II (ATASP), $200,000,000; Staple Crops Processing Zone Support Projects (SCPZs), $500,000,000.

Projects under Water Resources Ministry are: Lake Chad Basin Commission, $13,000,000; Integrated Programme For Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Niger Basin, $6,000,000; North East Nigeria Integrated Social Protection, Basic Health, Education, Nutrition Services and Livelihood, &100,000,000; and Rural Water Supply and Sanitization, $150,000,000.

In the Ministry of Health, the Regional Surveillance System Enhancement Project in West Africa will cost $90,000,000.

Projects under the Power Sector are: the Nigeria Electricity Transmission and Access, $364,000,000; Power Transmission Project, $200,000,000; TCN overall Transmission System Enhancement Project, $200,000,000; Vocational Training in the Power Sector, 50,000,000; and Mambilla Hydro Electricity Power Project, $4,800,000,000.

“The Social Inclusion and Welfare Advancement Project under the Ministry of Humanitarian, Disaster Management and Social Development is budgeted to cost $500,000,000; Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of infrastructure, livelihood, food security and economic recovery, $200,000,000; and North East Nigeria Integrated Social Protection, Basic Health, Education, Nutrition Services and Livelihood Restoration Project, 100,000,000,” the statement from the Senate President’s office said.

Nigerian Senate at plenary session.

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