At the heart of Senate's rejection of Buhari's loan request was something more personal than a borrowing plan
There’s more to the rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari’s $29.96B (about N9.12trn) loan request by the National Assembly than meets the eye, investigations by Pulse reveal.
In a letter to both chambers of the National Assembly two weeks before, Buhari had written:
“I wish to refer to the above subject and to submit the attached draft of the Federal Government 2016-2018 External Borrowing (Rolling) plan for consideration and early approval by the National Assembly to ensure prompt implementation of projects”.
However, the Senate in a near unanimous voice vote during plenary on Tuesday, turned down the President’s request.
Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume had moved the motion urging his colleagues to consider the President’s loan request.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP, Taraba State) had seconded the motion.
But things got worse for the Executive when Senate President Bukola Saraki asked his colleagues for a voice vote.
The “Nays” had it, announced Saraki and the loan request was flatly turned down.
Ndume couldn’t believe it.
“I was shocked by the decision; my colleagues surprised me today. I was not expecting that”, Ndume told journalists moments after his motion was defeated.
Ndume put it down to not doing his home work properly.
“If I had a little inclination that such a thing was going to happen, I would have tried to market the request or at worse, I will not present it. Today, the senators had their way and I had my say”.
Ndume also added that the loan request was turned down because the Executive failed to attach a detailed borrowing plan.
The bill was binned on the basis of technicalities, explained Ndume.
“One of the technical things that was missing is that in the letter, if you read it, says: ‘attached is a draft’ but there was no attachment.
“So, these are some of the lapses that we will look at in bringing it back.
“We were thinking that there were going to be details but there were no details of the borrowing plan”.
However, lawmakers spoken to for this story told Pulse that the failure of the Executive to include how the loan request will add to their 'Constituency Projects', was the overriding reason why the bill was shot down.
All lawmakers spoken to craved anonymity for this story.
“The President’s letter stated that the N9trn loan was going to be used for infrastructure projects if approved. What we were expecting was a draft attachment detailing what projects will come to our constituencies. There was nothing like that”, one lawmaker told Pulse.
Said another lawmaker who represents a State in the North of Nigeria: “The Executive has to be a lot more transparent and accountable when it requests for a loan. I’m sure that after today, President Buhari and his team will know what to do”.
Constituency Projects allocation is considered the 'be all' by Nigerian lawmakers.
Public commentators often accuse legislators of cornering funds voted for constituency projects into their private pockets.
The budget padding allegation raised by Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin against the Speaker and other Principal officers of the House, stemmed from alleged misappropriation of funds meant for constituency projects.
ALSO READ: Jibrin is as guilty as Dogara – Reps say
Jibrin bagged a legislative suspension for his troubles.
In rejecting the President’s loan request this week, the Senate alluded to the absence of constituency projects in the borrowing plan.
The Senators had said the Executive should “present a clear framework that does not marginalize any segment of our society no matter where they may be in the country; and present the same to the National Assembly for passage into law”.
Funds earmarked for ‘Constituency Projects’ are the pork barrel in Nigerian legislative ecosystem. Lawmakers often lobby for Constituency Projects allocation for obvious reasons.
A subdued Executive took the rejection of its borrowing proposal in its stride. Not like it had that much of a choice.
Sen. Ita Enang who is the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on National Assembly Matters, told newsmen on Tuesday that the loan request will be resent to parliament once it had been reworked.
“We are not disputing with the distinguished Senate”, said Enang, as cool as you'd like.
“There are certain information and details which will enable them to consider in detail, and appropriately the request of Mr. President.
“So we are collating that information. The Budget Office of the Federation, the Debt Management Office, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Minister of Finance and the economic team are collating the information so that it can be submitted to the Senate to enable them take the appropriate decision.
“We would be engaging the Senate. We will not be disputing with them but we will be engaging with them.
“When we present a matter before the legislature it is for them to consider and as they have considered, more information is needed and that information they are entitled to it and we would provide,” Enang promised.