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Nigeria’s Senate begins probe of immediate past President Buhari’s administration

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with former President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari

The Senate on Tuesday commenced probe of 30 trillion Naira Ways and Means loan obtained by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The Senate consequently constituted an ad hoc committee to interrogate the disbursement and usage of the loan.

The resolution was a sequel to a report of the Joint Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Finance, National Planning, Agriculture and Appropriation presented during the plenary.

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, announced the resolution after a majority of the senators supported it through voice votes.

Ways and Means is a loan facility through which the CBN finances the federal government’s budget shortfalls.

Mr Akpabio said members of the ad hoc committee would be announced at the plenary on Wednesday.

“The ad hoc committee be set up to interrogate the details of the ways and means and their disbursement and usage particularly the intervention programmes such as Anchor Borrowers Programme, excess funding in the power sector, monies given to manufacturers and banks and airlines to which of course increased the current debt profile of the country,” the senate president said.

Chairman of the joint committee, Yahaya Abdullahi, who presented the report, explained that the ways and means loan was one of the major factors that caused the current economic hardship.

Mr Abdullahi, who represents Kebbi North on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), advised the federal government to settle the N30 trillion debt to reduce the money supply.

He also urged the CBN to ensure that beneficiaries of various intervention programmes who failed to utilise the funds judiciously should refund the monies appropriated to them.

Senators indict previous assembly
In separate contributions, the lawmakers who spoke on the report blamed the leadership of the immediate past senate led by Ahmad Lawan for approving such a huge advance for the federal government.

Mr Lawan, however, defended himself and the senators of the 9th Senate for approving the ways and means.

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In his defence, the former senate president clarified that his leadership approved a total of N23 trillion for the ways and means and not N30 trillion.

“What the 9th National Assembly approved or rectified in terms of ways and means was not N29 or N30 trillion. It was N22 trillion but there was N819 billion to address a very serious infrastructure dilapidation that we have across the country.

“So, it was not N30 trillion. It was N22 trillion and then, of course, the one we had made it almost N23 trillion. If we have a ways and means that is N30 trillion today, that means something happened between then and now and it is for the National Assembly to find out what happened” Mr Lawan said.

He, however, urged his colleagues to investigate the approval and disbursement of funds and execution of projects under the ways and means advances.

“If there were expenditures done wrongfully in contradiction to the provision of the constitution, the National Assembly can look at the expenditures and if sanctions are needed for unlawful, wrong or unauthorised expenditures, the National Assembly can provide the sanctions.

“Nobody in this chamber should suggest that we should not look into anything that we feel is in the public interest but let me say this very clearly, what Nigerians want today is food and security. How are we going to provide food for Nigerians and protect their lives?” he added.

 

How N30 trillion ways and means was approved

Barau Jibrin, the deputy senate president, who was the chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the immediate past senate, explained that leadership of the upper chamber at the time approved the N30 trillion without proper details and background.

Mr Jibrin said when his committee queried the missing details of the ways and means when it was proposed, the federal government promised to send the proper details of the loan.

He, however, noted that the federal government failed to send the details of the loan.

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He said the ninth assembly approved the ways and means request in the expectation that the federal government would send details containing what the funds were meant for and how the fund would be disbursed.

“We said yes, we are going to pass it but why did we even put it together. They said because of certain situations that were urgent. We said we were going to pass it but bring your details later and it was a collective action by the Senate and that was done.

“That does not exclude the fact that we can still go ahead to investigate what we passed. We are open to investigation and there was a caveat at that time that we were going to investigate, that the details must be provided so we are waiting. Anytime the Senate feels we should investigate, we will investigate that.

“What happened then was a collective responsibility and it was done in the interest of the nation and line with our collaborative stance with the executive arm of government,” he said.

Mr Jibrin further noted that the passage of the ways and means without proper details and breakdown of the fund was to show their collaboration with the Buhari-led- administration.

“This fact should be clear to everyone. Ways and Means is supposed to be a temporary contract extended by the CBN to the executive arm of government, it could be due to an emergency.

“It is expected that if the executive arm of government and then legislature are on the same page particularly when the government has the majority in the Senate or the National Assembly, it is expected that we will always collaborate and assist the executive arm of government in the case of emergency and when those requests are brought here. We knew they were done due to certain situations of emergency.”

Economic hardship

Responding to the issue, Akpabio wondered why the ways and means of N30 trillion was approved without proper clarification.

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He said the ways and means is a major factor that caused the harsh economy of Nigerians.

“We are talking about N30 trillion ways and means. This Senate will not rubber stamp anything that we feel will be against the interest of Nigerians and that is why we are discussing this.

“Your submission is noted but in the aspect of doing something in the interest of the nation, we are saying what you did at that time had put the nation in more of a mess economically and therefore became the current economic situation we found ourselves in. There is a need for us to look at the details and to know whether they are rightly spent,” he said.

Mr Akpabio also said the ways and means caused the indebtedness affecting the nation’s economy.

“We are saying that the expenses that were not explained, the expenses that we do not have details about, have caused the indebtedness that we are seeing today and therefore have affected the ability of the government to provide essential needs and services for the public. We need to look into those things.

“We need to look at what we can do immediately to put food on the table of Nigerians, that is the most emergency we have; the aspect of looking at what went on in the ways and means whether in the Anchor Borrowers Programme or the intervention funds or whatever those are things that we are empowered to do and we shall do so,” the senate president said.


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