BY AHURAKA ISAH AND SOLOMON AYADO, Abuja
Senate resolved yesterday that the 2018- 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) Bill would be considered and passed on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
Consequently, the upper chamber said it would put on hold consideration of the report of Joint Committee on Finance, Appropriation and National Planning and Economic Affairs on the 2018- 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) till Tuesday.
This followed Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North)’s disclosure that the decision of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on production quota yesterday (Thursday) would guide the Senate to take informed position on some parameters of the MTEF.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who briefly presided before Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki took over agreed and thanked Lawan for the information.
This is coming on the heels of warning by Senators on the increasing debt profile of the country.
While Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West) asked the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts to look critically to determine the actual country’s debt profile, Senator Rabiu Kwankawso (Kano Central) said that the country must be careful not to fall into unnecessary debt trap again.
Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South) said that the debt profile of the country had been steadily on the rise.
The lawmakers who raised issues with the country’s rising debt portfolio spoke when the upper chamber resumed consideration of the general principles of the 2018 budget.
Adeola said, “I call on the committee on Local and Foreign Debts to critically look at the countries debt profile. The committee should determine and tell Nigerians the true profile of the country’s debts. How much of the debt service are we actually fulfilling? It is important that we know to guide us in our actions.”
The Lagos West senator noted that it would have been better if the National Assembly were furnished with the budget performance of 2017 to enable members to make meaningful comparison.
He also said that the issue of virement for 2017 had died a natural death and would not come up again in view of the presentation of the 2018 budget.
Adeola prayed the country to reconsider the number of agencies and do away with those that were adding no value to the country.
On his own, Kwankwaso said that the executive arm of government should be supported to maintain the prevailing stability in the Niger Delta region to ensure that the oil production quota is met.
The Kano Central lawmaker said that he is not in support of borrowing locally or from the international market except if it is absolutely necessary.
His fear, however is that if care is not taken, the country may fall back into the debt trap especially if borrowed funds are mismanaged.
Ogbuoji wondered why the 2018 budget was christened “a budget of consolidation.”
He asked, “I don’t know what we are consolidating. Is it the 2017 budget that is barely implemented that we are consolidating? Are we consolidating incomplete payment of salary or salary that is not paid at all?”
The Ebonyi south lawmaker said that if 60 per cent capital budget is rolled over to 2018 as being suggested, the budget would be further over bloated making it difficult for the country to find money to fund the budget.
He said that it is worrisome that local debt profile is increasing rapidly.
Ogbuoji said, “Consideration of the budget is beyond party lines. Anybody who thinks he is defending this budget is anti-Nigeria.”
Saraki however explained that the budget was rightly christened budget of consolidation because the country has just recovered from recession “now is the time to build the economy.”