•Writes National Assembly on budget presentation
•Fagbemi warns that rising debt profile danger to economy
Alex Enumah and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, asked the Senate to approve the sum $8,699,168,559 and €100 million foreign loans, which the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had ratified during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
The loan request was part of the 2022-2024 borrowing plan.
Tinubu also wrote to both chambers of the National Assembly yesterday regarding his intention to present the 2024 Budget at a joint session today.
The requests by the president came on the same day the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, decried Nigeria’s rising debt profile, warning that such increase poses a serious danger to the country’s economy. Fagbemi spoke in Abuja at the Body of Attorneys-General Conference and Meeting of the General Council of the Bar.
Tinubu made the loan request in a letter to the red chamber, which was read during plenary by Senate President Godswill Akpabio.
The aforementioned sums were approved by FEC on May 15 under Buhari.
Initially, the president had asked the National Assembly to approve $7.8 billion, €100 million in the borrowing plan of the federal government.
The letter read, “I write in respect of the above subject and to submit the attached federal government 2022-2024 external borrowing plan for consideration and early approval of the National Assembly to ensure prompt implementation of the projects.
“The Senate may wish to note that the past administration approved a 2022-2024 borrowing plan by the FEC held on May 15, 2023.
“The project cuts across all sectors, with specific emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, water supply, roads, security, and employment generation as well as financial management reforms.
“Consequently, the required approval is in the sum of $8,699,168,559 and €100 million.
“I would like to underscore the fact that the projects and programmes in the borrowing plan were selected based on economic evaluations as well as the expected contribution to the social economic development of the country, including employment generation, and skills acquisition.
“Given the nature of these facilities, and the need to return the country to normalcy it has become necessary for the senate to consider and approve the 2022- 2024 external abridged borrowing plan to enable the government deliver its responsibility to Nigerians.”
Equally, yesterday, Tinubu wrote to the Senate and House of Representatives about his intention to present the 2024 Budget at a joint session today.
The letter was read in the Senate by Akpabio. The federal government had proposed N27.5 trillion for the 2024 fiscal year.
The appropriations bill would contain budget proposals for the 2024 fiscal year.
It would be the first budget Tinubu would present to the National Assembly since his inauguration in May.
The presentation of the 2024 budget today indicates that the Tinubu administration would maintain the January to December budget cycle initiated by Buhari.
FEC had on Monday approved the 2024 appropriation bill of N27.5 trillion.
Fagbemi: Rising Debt Profile Danger to Economy
Fagbemi denounced the country’s rising debt profile, warning that it poses a serious danger to the economy.
He emphasised the need for government personnel at all levels to acquire relevant skills and training in the area of agreement drafting.
Fagbemi spoke yesterday, in Abuja, at the Body of Attorneys-General Conference and Meeting of the General Council of the Bar.
He stated, “I also need to comment on the increasingly rising debt profiles of government at all levels, which pose serious danger and challenge to our national economy and existence as an independent nation.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice has, against this backdrop, initiated a collaborative framework with specialist firms to enable legal officers involved in drafting MoUs and other forms of binding agreements acquire required skills to identify possible areas of dispute or liability, which could lead to avoidable litigation or arbitration costs and judgement debt.
“We are willing to extend the support to legal officers in the various states in order to strengthen their capacities in this regard.”
Fagbemi also stressed the need for collaboration in strengthening the entire justice sector, particularly, the administration of criminal justice sector, in order to meet the end goals of justice and the expectations of citizens.
According to him, the effectiveness and functionality of the justice system has direct effect on the overall development, stability and sustainability of the society.
The AGF urged the states AGs to ensure the full implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary across our states as provided under Section 121(3) &(4) of the constitution, as a mark of their commitment to the ideals of democracy and good governance.
He said, “We should in this regard seek to robustly build the capacities of the judiciary, both in terms of personnel and infrastructure, particularly by investing in technologies that are necessary to automate vital aspects of our court operations and ultimately implement a digital justice delivery system.”
Fagbemi added, “Next in the line of our engagements is the necessity to constructively work with the legislative arm of government.
“I encourage you all to actively engage the legislative arm of government in two major respects. Firstly, in the area of reform of existing laws, wherever necessary, and, secondly, in developing new legislations- that would address critical gaps, particularly within our justice sector institutions and beyond.”
The AGF stated that the main agenda of the conference was how to regularly and effectively use the instrumentality of the platform to solve problems and frictions arising from shared constitutional and statutory responsibilities as a federation, particularly, on critical issues for which the federal and component states may have divergent views.
In a goodwill message, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Mohammed Monguno, stated that the conference was apt and timely. Monguno said the judiciary faced challenges and there was an urgent need to address emerging legal issues affecting the country, with particular reference to conflicting judgements, arising from election petition tribunals and the Court of Appeal in recent times.
He stated, “In this regard, I urge you all to partner with the National Assembly to ensure that obsolete laws pertaining to adjudicating processes are updated and streamlined to address emerging issues in our evolving jurisprudence.
“On our part as legislators, we are committed to embarking on multi-dimensional reforms that would reposition the nation’s judiciary to face the challenges of the 21 Century, frontally and in tandem with global best practices.”
Monguno, while observing that the National Assembly would soon commence constitutional amendment, called on the body to come up with a position on the modality for separating the office of the Attorney-General from the office of the Minister of Justice.
He recalled that the Ninth Assembly had dealt with the issue but the then President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to it.