Ali Ndume, the Senator representing Borno South, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), says the rate of borrowings by the Nigerian government is increasing and worrisome.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter on Tuesday sought the approval of the Senate to borrow another $4billion (4,054,476,863) and €710million loan from bilateral and multilateral organisations to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Buhari’s latest request comes barely two months after the National Assembly approved his earlier request to borrow $8.3billion and €490million loans contained in the initial 2018-2020 borrowing plan.
While he said the loan request was an addendum to the 2018-2020 borrowing plan, he also asked the lawmakers to approve grant components of $125 million.
He told the lawmakers that the need to borrow more funds was to meet “emerging needs” for some “critical projects.”
Speaking during a press briefing at the National Assembly on Thursday, Ndume said it was more worrisome when there was little or nothing to show for what the loans were used for.
This was even as he faulted the Senate for rushing to approve the loan requests.
He said, “I’m not an expert in debt analysis. Honestly, the rate of our borrowing is increasing and 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 the borrowing. And this request for loans that the president sent to the National Assembly is part of the approved external borrowing.
“You guys 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 is getting to 80, 90 per cent, you have to be cautious. You have to look at alternatives.
“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 with 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 Ts, dot the Is, 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 makes 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 the pain when they say ‘you people again’. You call us rubber stamp and all that.”