Ring true By Yemi Adebowale, Phone number: 07013940521, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Watching the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on television on Monday, affirming that the red chamber would approve the $29.96 billion loan request of President Muhammadu Buhari, left me so muddled.Lawan persistently spoke as if he was one of the aides of Buhari. He did not sound one bit like he is heading another arm of government. Since his assumption of office, Lawan has been thinking and acting as if he is part of the Executive. On this loan request, I was expecting him to talk about a thorough scrutiny of the request by the Senate. He did not do this. Even before senators commenced debate on the request, Lawan had already approved it. Haba! It means the views of other senators no longer matter.
This President of the Senate, who has now become an autocrat in the Red Chamber, declared, “The question of whether we will approve the loan request of the Executive arm of Government? Yes, we will pass it.” Few weeks back, this President of the Senate shot down some members who requested for copies of the amendments to the Value Added Tax, before the First reading. Senators did not see the document before it jumped the first and second reading.
Fanatical Lawan no longer understands the concept of check and balance in a democracy. He is unconscious that we are running a constitutional government and that check and balance must apply. Yes, the legislature does not exist to antagonise the Executive. However, it must effectively and efficiently check the Executive, else, there will be absolutism, as we are now experiencing in Nigeria.
The system of check and balance is an important part of our Constitution. With check and balance, each of the three branches of government can limit the powers of the others. Each branch checks the power of the other branches to make sure that the power is balanced among them. Under just six months of Lawan, power has tilted absolutely in favour of the Executive.
The principle of check and balance has been thrown into the garbage can. No wonder Lawan said he would do anything Buhari requests of him in the Senate. For him, the loan request is a done deal. He cares less if this generation, and indeed, generation yet unborn, would be plunged into stifling debt repayment.
The list of foreign borrowing by the Buhari government is growing. There is a $1 billion African Development Bank loan. There is a $1 billion Eurobond, with an additional $500 million expected from the Global Medium Term Note Programme. There is a $5.8 billion from the China Exim bank. Over 30 per cent of the 2020 budget will be funded with foreign loans. As at June 30, this year, the federal government is gasping under a debt yoke of N20.42 trillion – local and foreign. Over 30 per cent of federal revenue will go into debt servicing in 2020.
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II was right when, two years ago, he urged the federal government to slow down on its borrowing because it was spending such a huge part of its revenues to pay interests on debts. The Emir remarked: “The Federal Government of Nigeria is spending 66 per cent of its revenues on interests on debts, which means only 34 per cent of revenues is available for capital and recurrent expenditures. That model cannot work. If you look at the 2017 budget of the Federal Government, I sometimes wonder what Nigerian economists are doing? In the 2017 budget, the amount earmarked for debt servicing is in excess of the entire non-oil revenue of the Federal Government, but that is not the problem. The problem is that it is a budget that is even going for more debts.
“Borrowing has reached its limit and government should therefore look for ways to attract investments. Growth can only come from investments. It cannot come from consumption. It cannot come from government balance sheet. It cannot come from borrowing because you cannot borrow unsustainably.”
So, what has the masses of this country gained from this massive borrowing in terms of infrastructure and poverty alleviation? Honestly, I don’t think we have gained anything; not with the hunger, disease, poverty, unemployment and decay ravaging the country. Just look around you and you will see the level of decay in virtually all sectors of our economy – health, education, water, roads, power, security and the rest of them.
The way our governments at all levels celebrate these loans often leave me dejected. They create the impression that it would be a quick fix for all our problems. Unfortunately, it does not turn out that way. Just imagine that $1 billion Eurobond sale being turned into an achievement. The oversubscription to the tune of $ 7.8 billion at an interest rate of 7.88% was celebrated as if we are getting free money. For those who don’t know, by the time this country exits this bond, we would have conservatively paid an additional $1 billion as interest. The interest could go higher as the Naira plummets. So, they have simply pushed Nigeria to continue wallowing in more debt.
The burden on our star-crossed generation and indeed future generation is weighty. A huge part of the revenue that the federal government ought to be using for poverty alleviation and infrastructural development has been going into debt servicing.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was apt when he said President Buhari was trying to ruin the future of Nigerians with this $29.96 billion loan request: “The fact that Nigeria currently budgets more money for debt servicing (N2.7 trillion), than we do on capital expenditure (N2.4 trillion) is already an indicator that we have borrowed more money than we can afford to borrow. And the thing is that debt servicing is not debt repayment.
“Debt servicing just means that we are paying the barest minimum allowable by our creditors. And while spending 50% of our current revenue on debt servicing, this administration wants to take further loans of $29.6 billion! To say that this is irresponsible is itself an understatement. President Olusegun Obasanjo and I paid off this nation’s debt, and I will not stand idly by and watch while Nigeria is plunged into second slavery by those who only know how to reap where they have not sown.”
Lawan and his cohorts care less. They want Nigeria to sustain the binge borrowing. The President of the Senate must show allegiance to Nigerians and not to Buhari. Our Senators must also show fidelity to traumatised Nigerians, snub Lawan and throw away this filthy loan request.
Boko Haram: Imperatives of Zulum, Ndume Leaks
Three deadly attacks last week by Boko Haram and ISWAP bring to the fore the painful failure of the federal government to respond appropriately to the pragmatic suggestions by Governor Babagana Zulum and Senator Ali Ndume at the recent North-east Security Summit hosted by the Borno State Government. During the parley organised by the office of the Inspector General of Police, Zulum, declared that the whereabouts of Boko Haram were known to everyone – military, security agencies, the traditional rulers and most members of the public – and all that was needed to end the killings was for the military to take the war to their doorsteps.
At the same summit, Senator Ali Ndume revealed that the commanders of the war confided in him that they could end the Boko Haram madness in just three months if given the right equipment. “At a meeting with the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, lawmakers on oversight duty were made to understand that with the needed equipment, the war would end in just three months. What is stopping the government from doing this and letting us have our peace,” remarked Ndume. This Senator further lamented the poor budgetary allocation to the fight against Boko Haram in the 2020 budget.
The Buhari government has obviously failed to respond appropriately to the patriotic suggestions of Zulum and Ndume. One of the results of this letdown was the killing of the four aid workers by Boko Haram last week. It was so painful that the aid workers, who were abducted near Damasak, in Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State, were in the dungeons of the terrorists for almost six months with little effort to secure their release, until they were executed.
In all, seven aid workers, working on a health project by Action Against Hunger, were abducted near Damasak. One of the drivers was killed during the attack and another was executed on September 24. The aid workers could not be rescued because the Nigerian military lacks the equipment and manpower for such. This is what Ndume pointed out at the security summit and nothing happened thereafter. The Nigerian state failed these patriots who were working on a project for traumatised residents of Borno State. Their families, friends and colleagues are now enduring unspeakable pain and hardship.
As I pen this piece, the only woman in the team abducted in Damasak, Grace Taku, runs the risk of being killed by the terrorists. Alice Loksha, a nurse and a mother, who was abducted during an attack in Rann in March 2018 is also still with the terrorists.
Federal government’s failure to respond to Zulum and Ndume’s expose also resulted in the death of 19 Fulani herdsmen last week, during a gunfight with Boko Haram terrorists targeting their cattle outside Fuhe Village near Ngala, close to the border with Cameroon. The herdsmen were subdued by the better-armed Boko Haram, who returned to Fuhe village after the killings, burning homes.
Also last weekend, the terrorists inflicted pain on the residents of Gasua, Yobe State, abducting 11 persons, including a lecturer at the College of Education in the town, Bitrus Bwala. They appeared in a video shared by their abductors asking the government to come to their rescue.
The military clearly knows the whereabouts of the terrorists as indicated by Zulum but lacks the equipment and manpower (as revealed by Ndume) to destroy them. This is the truth that must be told. If this government is interested in ending Boko Haram, it should respond appropriately. As at press time, almost the entire Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State is controlled by the terrorists. Most parts of Chibok are no go areas.
Edward Adamu is AMCON’s New Chairman?
The level of impunity under the Buhari government is frightening, unending and the government is unperturbed one bit about its lawlessness. It’s a big shame. Suddenly, we are told that Edward Adamu, one of the deputy governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria, is the new Board Chairman of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON); that Muiz Banire had been dropped and Adamu’s name forwarded to Senate and confirmed. The defence of the government was that the amended AMCON Act says the Chairman of the firm must be a deputy governor of the CBN. The removal of Banire and appointment of Adamu is obviously an illegality. A new law can’t take retrospective effect.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, puts it fittingly: “By law, the Chairman of AMCON, once appointed, is to remain in office for five years. Dr Muiz Banire had not completed his tenure when the President purportedly appointed another Chairman for AMCON.
The amendment of the AMCON Act does not automatically dissolve the existing Board or extinguish the offices previously created or already existing prior to the amendment.
“Under and by virtue of section 6 (1) (b) of the Interpretation Act, the repeal of an enactment shall not affect any right, privilege, obligation or liability accrued or incurred under the enactment. When a law is amended or repealed, there is a presumption of preservation of all things done under the previous law. By law, Banire is still the Chairman of the Board of AMCON.”
I was not surprised that the Senate confirmed the newly nominated Chairman for AMCON, when the existing Chairman had not exhausted his tenure or removed according to law. We don’t have an independent Senate. The Upper legislative house, as presently constituted, is a mere appendage of the Executive. It is incapable of taking an independent decision. This “follow follow” Senate approved the unlawful nomination of Adamu. What a country.