The Nigerian Senate has approved the $22.7bn external borrowing plan of the federal government after an emergency closed-door session.
President Buhari requested for the loan to fund critical infrastructure projects under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing Plan.
The process of approving the loan by Senators, however, led to a debate in the upper chamber as some senators approved it while some opposed it and demanded the details of the projects to be funded with the money.
This disagreement forced the Red Chamber into a closed-door session, which lasted about 30 minutes. Afterwards, the lawmakers approved the two-item recommendation of the Committee on Local and Foreign Loans.
The controversy began when the Chairman of the Local and Foreign Loans Committee, Senator Clifford Ordia submitted the report to the plenary without the details of the projects to be funded with the loan.
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, demanded the details of the projects to be implemented and that the lawmakers should critically scrutinise the panel’s recommendations before passing the report. He said the Senate needed to look at each item of the report and then determine which of the projects would help in growing the country’s economy.
Abaribe’s suggestion was turned down by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan who said the report cannot be scrutinised clause by clause because it is not a bill.
Lawan said, “What is here is what is to finance our capital budget and therefore it is important that we are conscious of that fact that we need to have the capital aspects of the budget funded.
“If we notice any lopsidedness, I think it may not just be for this Senate to just impede the progress but it is important that it takes note of areas that are left out and then, in the next phase, we consider them.”
He said Abaribe could decide to vote against all the recommendations or make amends.
He added: “What we want is to vote consciously on the projects and until it is approved, there won’t be implementation of the capital budget.”
The upper legislative chamber approved the loan request after the closed-door session and Lawan pledged that the loan would be used for projects that would improve the lives of Nigerians.