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Uproar As Buhari Makes Fresh Request For $29.96bn Loan

Peter Okunoren

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday re-sent the $29.96bn 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the Senate for its consideration and approval.

Buhari made the request a day after the International Monetary Fund warned Nigeria against rising debts.

The Debt Management Office has said out of Nigeria’s total debt profile of N25.7tn as of June 2019, external borrowing accounts for about 32 per cent while the 68 per cent is domestic.

The Federal Executive Council approved the President’s financial plan in August 2016 and sent to the 8th Assembly in September 2016.

The leadership of the federal parliament led by Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara invariably rejected the request in November 2016.

Buhari had asked the 8th Assembly to approve plans to borrow the amount abroad to fund infrastructure plans from 2016 to 2018.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who read the fresh request sent by Buhari during plenary, did not give details of the executive communication.

In the letter, dated November 26, 2019, Buhari said the 8th National Assembly approved only a part of the External Borrowing request forwarded to it in September 2016.

This, according to him, stalled the Federal Government’s implementation of critical projects spanning across the mining, power, health, agricultural, water and educational sectors.

The letter reads, “Pursuant to Section 21 and 27 of the Debt Management Office (Establishment) Act, and I hereby request for Resolutions of the Senate to approve the Federal Government’s 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing plan, as well as relevant projects under this plan.

“Specifically, the Senate is invited to note that: While I had transmitted the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan to the 8th National Assembly in September 2016, this plan was not approved in its entirety by the Legislature.

“Only the Federal Government’s Emergency projects for the North East, (Four (4) States’ projects and one (1) China Exam Bank Assisted Railway Modernisation Projects for Lagos – Ibadan Segment) were approved, out of a total of thirty-nine (39) projects.

“The Outstanding projects in the plan that were not approved by the Legislature are, nevertheless, critical to the delivery of the Government’s policies and programmes relating to power, mining, roads, agriculture, health, water and educational sectors.

“These outstanding projects are well advanced in terms of their preparation, consistent with the 2016 Debt Sustainability Analysis undertaken by the Debt Management Office and were approved by the Federal Executive Council in August 2016 under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing Plan.

“Accordingly, I have attached, for your kind consideration, relevant information from the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning the specific outstanding projects under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing plan for which legislative approval is currently sought.

“I have also directed the Minister to make herself available to provide any additional information or clarification which you may require to facilitate prompt approval of the outstanding projects under this plan.”

According to the President’s letter, the total cost of implementing the projects is $29.960bn consisting of a Projects and Programme loan of $11.274bn.

Others are Special National Infrastructure Projects of $10.686bn, Euro Bonds of $4.5bn and Federal Government Budget Support of $3.5bn.

The letter also revealed that the projects and programmes were selected after positive technical-economic evaluation and presumed contribution to the socio-economic development of the country.

The projects he said, would be implemented across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The President explained that it was necessary to resort to external borrowing to fund the financial gap required to address the huge infrastructural deficit in the country such as power, railway, road projects and assured lawmakers of its resolve to implement the projects in a financially sustainable manner.

The President also admitted that the World Bank had provided the sum of $575m for the purpose of reconstructing and rehabilitating the North East.

He said the amount, which was outside the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan had been earmarked for urgent implementation in the region.

Some of the areas of intervention according to him are, Polio Eradication support and routine immunization project- ($125m); Community and Social Development Project ($75m).

Others are the Nigeria States Health Programme Investment Project ($125m); State Education Programme Investment Project ($100m); Nigeria Youth Employment and Social Support Project ($100m) and the Fadama III Project ($50m).

The President, therefore, urged the Senate to immediately approve the $575m grant by the World Bank to enable its immediate disbursement before further consideration and authorization of the 2016-2018 borrowing plan.

The Senate Spokesperson, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, told journalists on Thursday that the 9th Senate would consider the fresh request from the President, purely on merit.

He said the 8th Senate rejected the proposal because it lacked details then.

He urged Nigerians to be patient with the parliament as details of the expenditure contained in the request would soon be made public.

Akwashiki said, “The 8th Senate rejected the request because there were no details of what the President wants to use the money for.

“Details would be provided along with this request and we will consider it on its merit.”

In spite of the Senate’s assurance, groups, including the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the Employers’ Consultative Association expressed concern about the FG’s borrowing plan.

BIG STORY

Fayose Canvasses ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ To Save Lives Amidst Lockdown, Says Hunger Kills Faster Than COVID-19

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The immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Fayose, on Monday called on governments at all levels, religious bodies, corporate organizations and well-meaning individuals to focus on strategic implementation of “stomach infrastructure.”

Fayose, in a statement made available to newsmen in Ado Ekiti through his Media Aide, Mr Lere Olayinka, said that his advice should be taken seriously.

According to him, hunger can kill faster than Coronavirus.

The former governor, who added that the human and economic losses, occasioned by the pandemic, would be mind-boggling, stressing “in the face of all these, leaders should remain as leaders and stand up for their people.”

He hailed the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for his pro-activeness and unrelenting efforts in the management of these challenges as well as his transparency and interface with the people.

Fayose particularly called on the Federal Government to emulate the Lagos State government and do more in the area of prompt information dissemination to stem the tide of misinformation in the country.

The statement read in part; “Regrettably, we all did not plan or ever imagined this level of attack, occasioned by COVID-19.

“Same has humbled the World Powers, not to talk of Third World countries like our country, Nigeria.

“The human and economic losses seem endless and in the face of all these, leaders must remain leader and stand up for their people.

“We all know the sit-at-home is inevitable; governors and council chairmen, as well as churches and mosques that have received allocations and offerings, must forget projects and embark on full-scale strategic implementation of ‘stomach infrastructure’.

“It is time to give back to the people, as nothing else will matter now. Yam, cassava, garri, and others can be bought locally and distributed, while bakers will be glad to be patronized to bake for people for free daily, while it lasts.

“This will help to enforce the government’s stay-at-home order effortlessly. The Federal Government will be making billionaires if the so-called palliatives and physical cash is managed by the wrong hands.

“I appeal to the general public to show understanding, knowing that our challenges outweigh our income as at today.

“Today, I am sure what is on the minds of ordinary Nigerians is: ‘on stomach infrastructure we stand’. This, if well implemented, will no doubt help to enforce the stay-at-home order effortlessly.”

NAN recalls that Fayose was an apostle of stomach infrastructure while in office as governor for the second term and made it the hallmark of his administration, despite the huge criticism that greeted the idea.

 

(NAN)

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BIG STORY

COVID-19: I Never Said There’s No Hunger In Nigeria – Lai Mohammed

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has debunked some reports recently attributed to the federal government, describing them as fake news.

The Minister, while speaking on Monday at the daily press briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, lamented some elements were bent on distracting the federal government’s efforts at fighting the pandemic.

It the same vein, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, also described the belief within a section of the population that COVID-19 is an elite disease as grossly erroneous.

Mohammed decried the fact that those behind fake news were bent on distracting the work of the committee

The Minister denied ever saying there was no hunger in the country in response to complaints by a large section of the population in reaction to the restriction order and other stringent measures put in place to fight to the pandemic.

“Those who are bent on distracting the Federal Government through fake news from its focused fight against COVID-19 have not relented.

“The latest in this is the claim that I said there is no hunger in the land and that the federal government has made available N100 billion to Nigerians. It is fake. There was no time I said it nor anybody in the Taskforce said so.

“Two, they are also carrying fake news that members of the Taskforce have agreed on the sharing formula of the money that is coming into the Taskforce. Once again, it is false.

“These people are bent on distracting the government from its focus fight against COVID-19. One of the reasons we have this daily press conference is to give you updates on COVID-19.

“Any other news not emanating from either the ministers or this press conference related to COVID-19 cannot be attributed to us.

“The NCDC has a website and you can get an update on COVID-19. Some websites are notorious for this fake news and one of them is reporterspressng.com. I will advise Nigerians not to go there,” he said.

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BIG STORY

JUST IN: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Moved To Intensive Care After Condition Worsens

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care in hospital after his coronavirus symptoms “worsened”, Downing Street has said.

Mr Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize “where necessary”, a spokesman added.

The prime minister, 55, was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London with “persistent symptoms” on Sunday.

The spokesman said he was moved on the advice of his medical team and is receiving “excellent care”.

A statement read: “Since Sunday evening, the prime minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital.”

It continued: “The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks to all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”

Mr Johnson was initially taken to hospital for routine tests after testing positive for coronavirus 10 days ago.

His symptoms included a high temperature and a cough.

Earlier on Monday, he tweeted that he was in “good spirits”.

Last month, the prime minister’s spokesman said if Mr Johnson was unwell and unable to work, Mr Raab, as the first secretary of state, would stand-in.

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