Again, Buhari, Saraki Meet Behind Closed Doors

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Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki again on yesterday held a closed doors meeting at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The meeting between the president and the Senate President lasted about an hour.

Last Thursday, Saraki met with the president. A similar meeting also took place last week.

The Senate President would not talk to journalists.

However, there are speculations that the meeting was aimed at sorting out area of disagreement on the president’s request to take $29.9 billion foreign loan.

Saraki had last Friday held a similar meeting with President Buhari.

The Senate had rejected Buhari’s request for authorisation to borrow about $30 billion.

The president had forwarded a request to the National Assembly to approve external borrowing plan of $29.960 billion to execute key infrastructural projects across the country between 2016 and 2018.

He made the requests in two separate letters to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.

Buhari said the external loan, the biggest in Nigeria’s history, would fund targeted projects cutting across all sectors with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation.

Other sectors, he said, included poverty reduction through social safety net programmes and governance and financial management reforms, among others.

According to him, the cost of the projects and programmes under the borrowing (rolling) plan is $29.960 billion.

This is made up of proposed projects and programmes loan of $11.274 billion, special national infrastructure projects $10.686 billion, Euro bonds of $4.5 billion and Federal Government budget support of $3.5 billion.

After the Senate declined to approve the loan, the Minister for Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed said government would engage the National Assembly to persuade them to approve the loan.

He explained that the stepping down of the. president’s request by the Senate should be seen as a patriotic move.

According to him, it is not unusual for the executive and the National Assembly to have agreements and disagreements.

He however gave an assurance that the executive would continue to engage the National Assembly through formal and informal channels and possibly re-present the request to the lawmakers after fine tuning it.