Leke Baiyewu and Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja
The House of Representatives has indefinitely suspended the consideration of the $22.79bn external loan request by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The House had listed the report by its Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management on the 2016–2018 Federal Government External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan as the last item for consideration on the order paper for Wednesday’s proceeding.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, however, asked that the consideration be stood down without giving a new date.
“We will step that down for today,” Gbajabiamila said, asking the Chairman, Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, to move for the standing down.
When asked to respond to the indefinite suspension of the loan request by the House, the Media Adviser to the Finance Minister, Mr Yunusa Abdullahi, said, “No comments please.”
The Speaker on Tuesday had announced that the loan would be considered on Wednesday.
He had made this known in reaction to a member of the House, Mr Henry Nwawuba, who presented a petition by a group of South-East elite, against the consideration and approval of the external loan.
The Senate last week approved the loan but not without protests from the opposition senators led by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe.
The funding agencies for the loan, according to the Senate panel, are the World Bank ($2,854,000,000), African Development Bank ($1,888,950,000), Islamic Development Bank ($110,000,000), Japan International Cooperation Agency ($200,000,000 ), German Development Bank ($200,000,000), China-Exim Bank ( $17,065,496,773), and the French Development Agency ($480,000,000).
Some of the projects to be funded with the loans are the Nigeria Electricity Transmission and Access Project ($364,000,000); Social Inclusion and Welfare Advancement project, renamed National Social Safety Net Project, ($500,000) and the Economic Reforms and Governance Project, renamed Fiscal Governance Project ($200,000,000).
Meanwhile, the Speaker on Wednesday named the committees that would interface with the Federal Government and other stakeholders on the falling prices of crude oil globally.
The House on Tuesday had raised the alarm over the sharp fall in the global oil prices, noting the adverse effect it would have on Nigeria’s economy especially the implementation of the 2020 Appropriation Act.
The House had mandated its committees on finance, petroleum, and budget and national planning to interface with the executive and report back within two weeks.
On Wednesday, Gbajabiamila said the House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Mr Aliyu Betara, should also be part of the interaction since the crude price would affect the national budget and the oil benchmark.
At the Tuesday plenary, Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Mr James Faleke, moved a motion of urgent public importance, warning the coronavirus outbreak, causing oil prices to fall, would frustrate the 2020 budget.
Amid tumbling prices of crude oil, the Federal Government had announced plans to cut the country’s 2020 budget.
Buhari was billed to get a report on Tuesday on what his regime could do to salvage the N10.59tn budget.
The budget review committee has a primary duty to reassess the $57 oil benchmark for the budget and ultimately recommend an appropriate size.
In another development, the Speaker has set up a panel headed by Mr Abdulraheem Olawuyi to ensure proper implementation of the 2018 Appropriation Act concerning the National Assembly’s budget.
The House had on February 20 said the Federal Government owed the National Assembly and the judiciary over N22.5bn from the previous national budgets.
According to the House, the legislature and the judiciary were underpaid to the tune of N1.2bn and N833m, respectively, between January and November 2018.