Senate may reject govs’ Paris club refund request

The Senate will on Tuesday deliberate on the bailout and Paris Club loan refund approved by the Federal Government to the state governments.

Following a point of order raised by Senator Samuel Anyanwu at the plenary on Thursday, the Senate resolved to take the matter as a motion “on the next legislative day.”

The Senate next legislative day is Tuesday.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday lamented that despite the various interventions by the Federal Government, there were still complaints and agitations by workers over unpaid salaries and allowances by some state governments.

Buhari, while addressing a delegation of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, led by the its chairman, Abdulaziz Yari, when they visited him in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, wondered how the unpaid workers had been managing to meet their needs.

During the meeting, Yari on behalf of his colleagues, requested that the President should ensure the release of the 50 per cent of the Paris Club loan refund so that the money could be built into the 2018 budgets of the state governments.

While raising the point of order, Anyanwu described the issue of bailout as “worrisome” to the lawmakers and Nigerians in general.

He said, “I am so worried about this Paris Club loan refund. I am so worried about it because as we have seen yesterday (Wednesday), the governors met with Mr. President and asked for more release of the Paris Club loan refund. My question is: where is this money coming from?

“For us as a Senate, these funds are not budgeted; I have not seen it anywhere in the budget and I have not seen the Senate’s authorisation for the release or utilisation of these funds. And today, the governors are asking for this money.

“I watched Mr. President on television yesterday (Wednesday) when he scolded the governors, asking them how have they been able to sleep when their workers have not been paid. They owe six to seven months’ salaries, pensioners have not been paid, yet the monies are being released. Why?Is it not tax payers’ money?”

The lawmaker alleged that labour unions were now agitating as a result of the fresh demand by the governors.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, sought the permission of the lawmakers “to have this point of order as a motion on the next legislative day,” which was unanimously granted.

“Please bring this as a motion on the next legislative day,” Saraki told Anyanwu.

Meanwhile, Saraki at the plenary on Thursday read the request by Buhari seeking the approval of the Senate for the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Fiscal Strategy Paper preparatory to the 2018 Appropriation Bill.

Although the letter was on Tuesday read at the House of Representatives by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the Senate President, who just returned from the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Russia, read the Senate version on Thursday.

The letter read, “I am pleased to submit the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper to the Senate. Let me use this opportunity to express my gratitude for the enduring partnership between the legislative and executive arms of government.

“Pursuant to provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, the preparation towards the submission of the 2018 budget to the National Assembly is progressing well. The MTEF and FSP were prepared against the backdrop of a generally adverse global economic uncertainty, as well as fiscal challenges and recovery in the domestic economy to ensure that planned spending is set at prudent and sustainable levels and is consistent with government’s overall developmental objectives and inclusive growth.

“I hereby forward the 2018-2020 MTEF and FSP to the Senate and trust that it would be kindly considered and approved expeditiously in order to bring the 2018 FGN budget preparation process to timely closure.”

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