House of Representatives
The House of Representatives Tuesday considered Nigeria’s soaring debt profile and gave a 90-day ultimatum to President Goodluck Jonathan to set a debt ceiling for the country.
The lower chamber warned that it would no longer attend to executive bills if at the expiration of the deadline, Jonathan failed to announce a debt ceiling for the country in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos/ACN) who led the debate recalled that three months ago( April) the House had passed a similar resolution which the executive arm of government ignored.
Gbajabiamila said the matter was not a mere motion but an attempt by the House to ensure that the executive complied with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
He argued that it had become necessary for the legislature to employ some retaliatory tactics to ensure that the executive complied with the laws and directive of the National Assembly.
“It is time we do something about it. Any Billbrought by the president should be put on hold until he implements the Fiscal Responsibility Act. It is a legislative tool we can employ.
“It is not a resolution (referring to the debt ceiling directive), it is an Act of parliament that is being flagrantly abused. The first ninety days has elapsed and the president is yet to comply,”he said.
The issue has been referred to the House Committee on Legislative Compliance for further action.
According to the Debt Management Office (DMO) as at December 31, 2011, Nigeria’s external debt stood at US$5.7 billion. The debt portfolio stood at $4.5 billion in 2010 and $3.9 billion in 2009.
A recent request by the president for $8 billion in four years raises Nigeria’s total debt accumulation to $14 billion - a new high since the country exited the Paris Club debt in 2004.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has ordered the Petroleum Equalization Fund(PEF) to pay the sum of N27,051,618,579 into the Federal Government coffers within three months. The amount represents eighty per cent of the operating surpluses of the agency for a period of five years.
The Committee also directed the agency to refund another N20.22m within the same period for expenses incurred on a plot of land acquired in 2001for its Corporate Head Office but which was revoked by the Federal Capital Development Authority in 2006.
Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon Solomon Adeola gave the order yesterday when the management of the PEF Board led by its Executive Secretary, Mrs. Adefunke Kasali, appeared before it on the various audit queries from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation,AGF, from 2007 and 2011.
Adeola however advised the Board to head for a Court of competent jurisdction to challenge the order of the Committee if it was not satisfied with the decision.
He gave the Board one week to furnish the Committee with some documents relating to the operations of the Agency such as the copy of the Act setting it up,details of its nominal roll, trainings attended,salary and wages, administrative expenses,capital payments, capital items, amount invested in treasury bills and its interest as well as its audited financial accounts for the past five years.
He said that these documents would assist the committee to conduct a thorough investigation.