Senate approves Buhari’s N22.7trn loan request

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The Senate has approved the sum of N22.7 trillion that was spent by the executive arm of government without the initial approval of the national assembly.

 

The upper legislative chamber approved the request on Wednesday, after Ibrahim Gobir, senate leader, presented a report.

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Gobir said some of the beneficiaries of the funds are the office of the accountant-general of the federation, the Ministry of foreign affairs (ECOWAS national unit), Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading, Azura Power West Africa, Niger Delta Power Holding Company, and Accugas Limited.

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The N22.7 trillion is money borrowed by federal government from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the “ways and means advances”.

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President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the Senate to approve the sum in December 2022, but some senators — mostly of the opposition — kicked against it.

 

They demanded that records of what the funds were spent on be provided before approval is given to his request.

 

“The ways and means advances by the Central Bank of Nigeria to the federal government has been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short-term or emergency finance to fund delayed government-expected cash receipt of fiscal deficit,” Buhari had said in his letter to the national assembly last year.

 

“The ways and means, balances as at 19th December 2022 is N22.7 trillion.”

 

Following the uproar the request caused in the senate, Ahmad Lawan, senate president, appointed Gobir to chair an ad hoc committee and liaise with relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on the spending.

 

Though the Gobir-led panel was meant to have turned in its report since January, it was only able to do so at Wednesday’s sitting.

 

Recall that in January 2023, Buhari asked the Senate to securitise the N22.7 trillion Ways and Means loan.

 

Securitisation is the practice of pooling together various types of debt instruments and selling them as bonds to investors.

 

Addressing the Senate, Buhari said it would cost the federal government about N1.8 trillion in interest if the national assembly failed to approve N22.7 trillion in extra-budgetary spending.

 

Speaking on the issue, Patience Oniha, director-general of DMO, said the securitisation of the ways and means advances would enable the agency to include the debt in the public debt stock, thereby, improving debt transparency.

 

Using the actual public debt stock of N44 trillion (at the time) as a basis, Oniha projected that the country’s public debt would hit N77 trillion if the CBN loan is included.

 

At the time of filing this report, the House of Representatives is yet to sit on the matter, but approval from the House could send Nigeria’s public debt beyond the current level of N46.25 trillion.

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