Borrowing to fund infrastructure development, a necessity – Lawan


NASS to lay PIB report Tuesday, amend Electoral Act before recess

 By Abdullahi M. Gulloma, Abuja
The President of the Senate Mr Ahmad Lawan has justified borrowing by the federal government, saying the country is poor and has no option but to borrow to fund infrastructure development.Lawan said this Thursday while fielding questions from State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

“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 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 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,” he said.He said the National Assembly would not be frivolous in approving requests for loans by the executive arm of government.

He said requests to obtain loans would be subjected to thorough scrutiny to ensure that they are necessary.
“We’ll also have the loan request from Mr. President. The loan request is to fund the 2021 Appropriation Act and of course, this is not a new request. It’s something that we had passed in the MTEF and it’s something that when we pass the budget 2021, we also passed that. “So, it’s only to give the necessary legislative approval for the administration to go further and collect the funds. 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 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,” he said.The
The Senate President also that the two chambers of the National Assembly would receive the joint committee’s report on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and consider passage of the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill. “I’ve come to update Mr. President on the activities that are lined up in the in the Senate, particularly, and the National Assembly in general. “You’ll recall that we have several bills, very important ones at that, that are pending and we are working around the clock. At the moment, we are dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on the PIB; the Petrol Industry Bill, and by the grace of God, our committees, the joint committees, will finish their work on it by the end of the week, hopefully. The reports would be laid on Tuesday in both chambers. This is what we have planned and this is what we’re working towards. “You also know that President, the executive arm of government, had submitted a Supplementary Budget request. In the Senate, we have had the second reading yesterday and we have given the Appropriations Committee, particularly to deal with it with the relevant committees of Defense related and other security agencies related committees and of course.“For COVID-19 vaccines that we have to procure, we need the Health Committee and, of course, the Primary Healthcare Committee as well to work on the Supplementary Budget request for Mr. President. 

“We’re expecting report on this by Tuesday, by the grace of God and we may consider that report on Wednesday next week, so that we’re able to pass the request because of the urgency and the need for us to hit the ground running. “We need to give so much attention to our security agencies because of the situation across the country and of course, the COVID-19 vaccines, procurement is also an essential thing that we need to do. “We also have some work to do on the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill. Our committee in the Senate and indeed, in the House, have worked jointly and we have very little to do really, to get the reports and consider in the two chambers. 

“We expect that we’ll do that before we go on our annual summer recess, which comes up on the 15th of July, by the grace of God. So, before we go on summer recess, we should be able to pass the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill. “We also have outstanding confirmation requests for National Commissioners of INEC, we’ll do that, we’ll consider those confirmation requests from Mr. President before we go.

”The Senate President applauded  Buhari’s constant support and respect for the National Assembly expressing  the hope that other members of the executive branch do the same,” he said.