A lawmaker, Ali Ndume has faulted what he described as the hasty manner with which the ninth National Assembly often approved external loan requests made by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking with reporters in Abuja, Ndume insisted the present external debt burden put at over N35trillion by the Debt Management Office (DMO) was worrisome.
He lamented that the hurry to grant loan request from the executive by the National Assembly has made Nigerians to become suspicious of their elected representatives and also nicknamed them “Rubber stamp.”
While noting that loans are good for the purpose of investment and infrastructure development, the lawmaker said using 90 percent of such loans to service debts is not tenable.
Reacting to the recent request made by President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow $4billion and Euro 710million as part of the 2018 – 2021 external borrowing plan and its implication on the nation’s economy, Ndume said it is “worrisome.”
“Honestly, I’m not an expert in debt analysis. You have the Debt Management Office there. Honestly, the rate of our borrowing is increasing and it is worrisome.
“But it is not the borrowing that is the problem as I always say, it is what you do with what you borrow.
“It is not wrong, for example, to borrow money from the bank with some reasonable interest to buy a car, especially when you have a family – wife and children – to take to school, and you plan to repay gradually with your salary. It is fine, because you cannot afford the money to buy the car on your own. Borrowing to you, becomes a necessity.
“But, when you borrow and you cannot buy fuel, then you keep borrowing to buy fuel, and you give the car as collateral to collect fuel… I don’t support that.
“It is not the borrowing. And this request for loan that the President sent to the National Assembly is part of the approved external borrowing plan and as I said, I am just very careful.
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“If you’re bashing your friend and he gets annoyed, you can lose him. So I don’t want to lose my press friends.
“You guys (press) should look at what the borrowing is for in the first place. Is it necessary? Are the terms good?
“Borrowing is not a crime but when the rate of debt servicing increases and I understand it’s getting to 80 – 90 percent, you have to be cautious. You have to look at alternatives.”
He also expressed worry over what he described as the hasty manner with which the Senate and by extension the National Assembly approves loans without critical analysing what the loans are meant for and their implications on the economy.
“There are certain borrowings that are just absolutely necessary, there are some that are not necessary. There are some that can be delayed. There are some that the terms can be negotiated or renegotiated.
“This is what we should analyse and see if it is necessary. Let us look at the implications and what the money is meant for.
“For example, we have infrastructural deficit in this country and what we hear when people come to Abuja or when allocations are made, you can’t tell what is done with it.
“Another thing I’m worried about is the way the Senate is handling it. The Senate, by definition, is House of deliberation.
“When things like this (loan request) comes, you don’t just say, because you want to be good, you approve it. No.
“You’re supposed to look at it critically. Cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘I’s, ask questions, carry the people you are representing along, ask if they agree. Not that we just sit down and just approve it.
“We thought it might be good but the way we do it make the people we represent look at us suspiciously.
“There are situations where the time is short and we need to act fast, then we’ll have to carry the people along. I feel pain when they say ‘you people again.’
“This is the last one, I won’t do it again. You call us rubber stamp and all that but if there are certain things that can wait, that we need to analyse and not rush.
“We (National Assembly) rushed to approve certain borrowings but up till now, we didn’t get the money. So why did we rush? These are the questions that come to my head most of the time.”
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