CEM REPORT | The House of Representatives had raised their voices against the rising debt incurred by the Nigeria Government.
The House of Representatives at the resumption of plenary yesterday also decried the decline in crude oil production due to theft and sabotage.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, raised the concerns in his welcome remarks at resume plenary after the long recess.
This comes just after the recently released Debt Management Office (DMO) report which revealed that Nigeria’s total debt as of June this year stood at N42.84 trillion.
Similarly, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, yesterday, raised the alarm about the massive crude oil theft in the oil-rich Niger Delta, while welcoming his colleagues back from their two-month annual vacation he also added that the problem was gradually pushing the economy into a coma.
The legislative outcry came on the same day President Muhammadu Buhari, in separate letters, requested the Senate and House of Representatives to approve the issuance of promissory notes totalling over N402 billion for the defrayal of some federal debts.
The President’s Letter
President Muhammadu Buhari, in separate letters dated September 16, requested the Senate and House of Representatives to approve the issuance of promissory notes totalling over N402 billion.
The first request to the Senate, which amounted to N375 billion, was read at plenary by the senate president and it was meant to settle outstanding claims owed various exporters.
Other debt payment requests to the Senate contained in the letter were to be routed through the DMO, which includes N6.706 billion for the Kebbi State Government for the construction of federal roads in the state and N2.706 billion for the Taraba State Government, also for the construction of federal roads there.
Buhari, in another request, also read at plenary by Lawan, sought the Senate’s approval for the issuance of an N18.623 billion promissory note for the Kebbi State Government.
The president, in his letter, said the payment of N18.623 billion to the Yobe State Government through the DMO would help the state to offset funds expended on the execution of five different federal road projects in the state.
In another letter to the House of Representatives, the President also sought approval for the issuance of promissory notes by the DMO for the construction of federal roads in Yobe, Kebbi, and the Taraba States.
In both letters, the President explained that while Yobe State will get N18, 663,843,119.39 as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the execution of five road projects, Kebbi will get N6,706,835,495.12 for the construction of two road projects, and Taraba will get N2, 470,525,729.53 for one road project.
The House of Representatives
Gbajabiamila while addressing his colleagues stated that the issue of raising debt emerged from interactive sessions of the Senate and House Committees on Finance with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).
He noted that the issue became more worrisome while considering the scope of deficit financing to be proposed in the new budget and the decline in crude oil production due to theft and sabotage.
Gbajabiamila added that while the House appreciated that the current fiscal conditions necessitated borrowing to finance budgetary expenditures, there should be worrying about the long-term effect of the debt burden on the country and the ability to pay responsibly and sustainably.
The concerns, he said, would be central to the consideration of the 2023 Appropriation Bill when presented, adding that appropriations for new projects for MDAs would be influenced by the extent to which existing projects have been funded and their performance in executing these projects as intended.
He drew the attention of his colleagues to the matter of crude oil theft stating that the continuous perpetration of the act continues to pose a major threat to serving the Nigerian people and meeting the demands of governance and nation-building.
He further described the actions of the perpetrators as treason against the country, for which they must be held accountable.
“Due to theft and various acts of economic sabotage, we are experiencing a massive decline in the volume of crude oil exports. Our crude oil export of 972,394 bpd for August is the lowest we have recorded in the last two decades.
“At a time when we are already experiencing severe financial constraints. There are mechanisms in place to prevent these sorts of bad actors, and the government spends significant amounts of money each year to protect oil and gas resources in the country.
“Evidently, these existing arrangements do not suffice. As such, there is an urgent need to review them and make the necessary improvements. It is also of particular importance that the perpetrators of these crimes against the state are identified, prosecuted and subjected to the stiffest penalties the law allows.
“Those who seek to impoverish our country in this manner have declared war against the Nigerian people.
“The government’s response must be sufficient to convince them of the error of their ways and deter others who might be tempted to join in their treason.
“I met with the finance minister and the Director General of Budget and made it clear to them that enough of crude oil theft. Nigerians don’t want to hear that again. What do you intend to do about it? That’s the important question.”
On the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Gbajabiamila said the current framework of government-sponsored tertiary education was no longer working. He said the goal of the House was to begin an assessment of the current system and consider all available options for complete reform.
Gbajabiamila lamented that various priority bills were still pending at different stages, despite the limited time available for the ninth House.
The President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan, also while addressing his colleagues welcoming them back from their two-month annual recess, quickly raised the alarm about the rate of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, he noted that it is pushing the economy into a coma.
He warned that unless prompt action was taken to stop crude oil theft, the nation might never see the much-needed development it needs.
The senate president also stressed the need for improvement in the country’s revenue earnings.
“The economy of our country is still challenged. The Senate, working with the House of Representatives and the executive, needs to continually seek better responses to the economic situation.
“Generation and collection of revenues have remained major challenges. Also, the massive loss of revenue through oil theft is debilitating and threatening to throw the economy into a coma.
“Revelations about the scale of oil theft shows that until the government takes decisive actions, Nigeria could soon lose any revenue from that sector.
“We must, therefore, work to ensure that everything is done to curtail this theft.”
Lawan recalled that the senate had during the recess had two engagements with the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, service chiefs, Inspector General of Police, Director General of Department of State Services, Director General of Nigerian Intelligence Agency, and other heads of security agencies.
“From the assessment of the prevailing situation, our security agencies are recording more successes and the situation seems to be improving.”
He noted that the senate would continue to engage defence and security agencies through appropriate committees to ensure that the follow-up engagements were sustained.
Furthermore, Lawan expressed confidence in the fourth coming 2023 general elections. He noted that the innovative amendment to the Electoral Act by the National Assembly provided the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the capacity to deliver on a successful general election in 2023.
“The year 2023 is a momentous period for Nigeria, as elections will be held across the country. Nigerians are expected to exercise their franchise.
“Therefore, the senate, indeed the National Assembly, will work with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure very successful, transparent, and credible elections.
“We are ready to support INEC in all possible ways as a legislature. Already, the timely amendment of the Electoral Act 2022 has provided very important innovations in ensuring a better electoral climate.”