The House of Representatives will soon revisit the $22.79bn external borrowing request by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to finance some critical projects in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
This is coming few weeks after the National Assembly approved N850bn internal loan sought by the President.
The Senate had on March 6 approved the loan amidst controversy. The Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, had particularly led the protests against the process leading to the approval.
The House, which was billed to approve the loan in concurrence with the Senate, had however suspended its consideration of the request indefinitely.
The House had scheduled consideration of the report by the Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management on the 2016–2018 Federal Government External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan for March 11 and it was listed as the last item on the order paper for day’s proceedings.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, however, asked that the consideration be stood down without giving a new date.
Gbajabiamila later disclosed on March 18 that the protest by National Assembly members from the South-East geopolitical zone led to the suspension of work on the loan. “I know there has been a lot of agitation about South-East not benefiting from the loan. It is one of the reasons we haven’t considered the loan in the House,” he said.
The Speaker said the House was already in talks with the Federal Government officials on how the zone would be accommodated in the execution of projects with the loan.
He noted that he had spoken with Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, to find a solution to the issue.
Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, in a response to an enquiry by our correspondent on the status of the presidential request via a text message, said the consideration and approval were delayed due to new developments in the economy.
Ado-Doguwa said, “We have significantly reviewed the 2020 budget to make it realisable. Changes were effected due to emerging economic realities world over. Some of the borrowing plan requests by the Federal Government are passed (by the House) because we need to make up our national finances to fill in the gaps created by the COVID-19 pandemic and global oil market.