Senate passes $22.7bn foreign loans for federal, state govts

• As Lawan, Abaribe disagree on loan approval defends position by Senate rule book

The Senate has approved the report by its committee on Local and Foreign Loans empowering the federal, state governments and Ministry Departments and Agencies to take loans from the World Bank, Islamic Bank, the African Development Bank and Chinese Export and Import (EXIM) Bank amounting to $22.798, 456, 773.

The resolution of the Senate came after a closed-door session which lasted about forty-five minutes.

The Senate approved the loan of $22.798, 456, 773 as recommended by the committee on loans and foreign debts.

Lawan had said the various views expressed in support and rejection of the loans by the Senate was reflective of the views being held by Nigerians.

According to him, many Nigerians do not want the loans taken while others think otherwise but the Senate has taken the decision in the interest of the nation and her economy and it was commendable.

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Lawan had earlier expressed his reservation on the view of Senators that the document is kept for a while Senators peruse it before the debate.

He maintained that “because it is a personal explanation, it does not need contribution from anyone but let me advise. This is supposed to be Senate document. If we are going to postpone the consideration of the report, we will have to bear responsibility to keep it off the press.

“Otherwise, the press will discuss it even before the Senate will discuss it. And we would lose relevance so I believe that we have to weigh it, whether we are prepared to delay it. The only consolation I have from where I seat is because we have a committee that represented us in putting this thing together, on this, I trust that we trust our committee.

“When our committee takes us through what they have done. I want to assume that where we have issues, we can raise the issues.

“The risk we have is that, if we don’t consider this thing, it will just go out and it will be out of our hands,” Lawan stated.

He also said that standing down the report would amount to standing down part of the capital project in the 2020 budget.

Senator Adanu Aliero and Bassey Albert maintained the Senate should allow more time to study the report by the committee on loans and foreign debts for a more robust contribution to its consideration and consequent passage.

Albert maintained that the Senate should not be deterred by snooping reporters who would discuss the bill on the pages of the newspaper.

Albert said: “What we have requires patriotic response and we are here to ensure that the country moved forward.

“So we would have to take the kind of decision and actions and take responsibility for it, so I do not see any press changing the decision of the national assembly.”

The closed-door session was preceded by a battle of wits between the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan and the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe as both principal officers explored the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended.

Both men explored the rule book to convince their colleagues on the need for wholesale approval or item by item of the report by the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts Chaired by Senator Ordia Alimikhena, who presented the report to the Senate at Plenary.

The Minority leader had accused the President of the Senate of muzzling the minority as he was repeatedly prevented from seeking to make the Senate buy into item by item consideration of the report as against wholesome approval, as he said some items in the report required reconsideration.

The argument by both leaders led to a stalemate which made Senator Gabriel Suswam (Benue North East) call for a close session for the Senate to cement the grey areas and progress sequel to which the Leader of the Senate, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya moved a motion for a closed session.

Senator Abaribe had unsuccessfully failed to gain the recognition of the President of the Senate to grant him audience to speak on the matter as he relied on rule ’43’. 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.”

Lawan denied the Minority leader leave to address the Senate on this rule as he said: “You did not give me any synopsis nor detail.”

Senator Abaribe resorted order 14 on matter of privilege in the rule book which reads in part “14.-(a) Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the Senate collectively and by the members of the Senate individually conferred by the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act Cap 208 law of the Federation 1990 and other statutes, or b practice, precedent usage and custom.

“Whenever a matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken up immediately,” the Senate standing Orders 2015 as amended states.

Upon being recognised to speak, Abaribe called on the Senate to look at the projects side by side the loans proposed and ensure they will contribute to boosting that nation’s economy thus improve revenue for the federal government.

He said the Senate and the country must be mindful of the popular saying that “he who goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing”

Senate President replied that the Minority leader has all his privileges granted and urged all members of the Senate to vote along their line of interest.

Senator Abaribe lost in the battle of wit as he was replaced by another senator from the minority, Senator Albert Bassey, who supported the motion for the adoption of the report’s recommendation paving way for the Senate’s adoption of the report.

Explaining the absence of the Senate Minority leader spokesman of the Senate, Godiya Akwashiki said the Senate Minority leader left and another minority Senator in compliance with the rule of the Senate supported the motion by the Leader of the Senate and it was adopted.

While the loans have been listed to develop transport infrastructure including road and railway, power, health and various aspects of developmental needs in the country at the federal and state levels, Kaduna, Katsina and Kogi are among the states that applied for varying loans facility from different sources.

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