By G9ija

President Muhammadu Buhari thursday re-sent the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the National Assembly for consideration and approval.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the financial plan in August 2016 and sent to the Eighth National Assembly in September 2016 for consideration but it rejected the request.

However, Buhari in a letter to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, read at yesterday’s plenary of the two chambers, sought the permission of the legislature to borrow the fund.

Should the president’s request get legislative approval, Nigeria’s external debt stock would rise to above $111.23 billion as data from the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that the nation’s external borrowing was $81.27 billion . as at March 2019.

Also yesterday, the president said the country’s economy was on a sustained path of growth since it exited recession.

The president’s cheering statement came just as the federal government honoured 32 prominent Nigerians, including Africa’s richest man and President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF)/Chairman of the United Bank for Africa Group (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu and Chairman of Honeywell Group, Oba Otudeko, with national productivity merit awards.

Speaking on behalf of himself and two other recipients, Elumelu reiterated their determination to create more jobs for the teeming youth population in the country.
However, the president in the letter dated November 26, 2019 to the National Assembly, gave reasons why his administration wanted to borrow the $29.96 billion, saying the funds would be used to finance 39 critical projects being executed by the federal government.

He added that the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, will interact with the Senate to shed more light on the borrowing plan.

The two- page letter entitled: “Request for The National Assembly to Re-consider and Approve the FG’s 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan,” reads: “Pursuant to sections 21 and 27 of the Debt Management Office (Establishment, etc) Act, I hereby request the resolution of the Senate to hereby approve the federal government 2016 – 2018 external borrowing plan as well as relevant projects under this plan.

“Specifically, the Senate is invited to note that while I had sent the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the Eighth National Assembly in September 2016, this plan was not approved in its entirety by the legislature.

“Only the federal government emergency project for the North-east, four states projects and one China Exim Bank-assisted railway modernisation project for Lagos-Ibadan segment were approved out of a total of 39 projects.

“The outstanding projects that were not approved by the legislature are nevertheless, critical to the delivery of the government policies and programmes relating to power, mining, roads, agriculture, health, water and educational sector.

“These outstanding projects are well advanced in terms of their preparation and is consistent with 2016 debt analysis undertaken by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and were approved by the Federal Executive Council in August, 2016 under the 2016 – 2018 external borrowing plan.

“Accordingly, I have attached, for your kind consideration, relevant information from the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning the specific outstanding projects under the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan for which legislative approval is currently sought.

“I have also directed the minister of finance to be available to provide any necessary detailed information or clarification that you may require to carry on prompt approval of the outstanding projects under this plan.”

The Eighth Senate on November 1, 2016 had rejected the federal government’s plan to borrow $29.960 billion to fund the 39 capital projects.

In rejecting Buhari’s request, the Senate had explained that it was not comfortable with the absence of the breakdown of the borrowing plan.

Speaking on the president’s request at the day’s plenary, the then Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, had moved a motion that “the Senate should consider the request of the president on the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Rolling Plan,” and was seconded by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha.

The then Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, then put the question on whether the chamber should consider the request to vote. The response was overwhelmingly in the negative. And when Saraki repeated the question, the rejection became louder. So he ruled that “the Nay has it.”

The president, in another letter addressed to the Senate president, and which was read at plenary yesterday, also sought the approval of the Senate for the amendment of the Companies and Allied Act 2019.

The one-page letter also dated November 26, reads: “Pursuant to Section 58 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby forward the Companies and Allied Matters Bill, 2019 for consideration and passage into law.

“The Senate may wish to note that in this Bill, Section 26(5) of the extant Companies and Allied Matters Act has been amended to: Preserve the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation to approve the registration of companies limited by guarantee: and reflect the Ease of Doing Business principles in Executive Order No. 1 of 2017 on the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment.”

Meanwhile, Buhari has said the country’s economy is on a sustained path of growth since exiting recession.
He said one of the positive signs of progress in the economy was Nigeria’s place on the recent ranking on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index, in which the country moved up 15 places from the 2018 position of 146 to 131.

The president used the opportunity to ask state governments to intensity efforts to instill improved fiscal transparency and accountability in order to ensure optimum use of scarce resources.

Buhari, whose speech was read at the 18th edition of the National Productivity Merit Award investiture ceremony held in Abuja yesterday, by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, also said that the country’s journey to food security and self-sufficiency was well underway.

“Our economic diversification programmes are yielding positive results. Our ease of doing business policies and programmes are already impacting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as well as manufacturing, mining and agriculture, among other key sectors. We are now ranked 131 on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index by moving up 15 places from the 2018 position of 146.

“We have made outstanding progress in almost all segments of the agriculture value chain; consequently, tens of thousands of jobs in agriculture, logistics, manufacturing and real sectors are being created. We shall sustain these policies to ensure additional investments are channeled, thereby creating more jobs in the sector,” he stated.

He added that the focus of his administration is to consolidate on the achievements made in the last four years “by intensifying efforts on security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption, correcting the lapses made, tackling emerging challenges facing the country and taking bold steps in transforming our country and setting her on a sound and sustainable path to an enviable height.”

According to him, his administration has since its re-election in March been mapping out new strategies aimed at fostering unity and at the same time liberating the citizens from poverty.

The president also identified the major cause of inequality and insecurity in the country as pervasive corruption.
He urged Nigerians to collectively resolve to fight and expose corruption and the corrupt as by so doing the country can foster a broad-based prosperity required to create a country that is not only for a few privileged, but caters for all Nigerians.

In his speech at the award ceremony, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the annual award of honour was bestowed on individuals and organisations who stood out in creativity, innovation, high performance, efficiency, discipline, patriotism and had contributed in outstanding ways to national growth and development.
Ngige explained that since the inception of the award in 1991, a total of 333 individuals and 84 organisations have been honoured.

He said 25 individuals and seven organisations that have proved themselves worthy of this award were bestowed with this year’s national productivity honour.
Responding on behalf of some of the honourees, Elumelu reiterated their determination to create more jobs for the youth.

Speaking shortly after being conferred with the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) award by Buhari, he said the creation of more employment opportunities had become inevitable in order to reduce insecurity, promote national development and social cohesion as well as getting the youth off the streets.

He expressed gratitude to the federal government for the recognition, adding that this would spur them towards boosting job creation.
He told journalists: “It is good to be recognised by your people, by your government and especially by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for job creation, for helping to empower our young ones.
“I and my fellow awardees- Dangote and Oba Otudeko- we appreciate the gesture, we appreciate this recognition and we pledge to create more jobs for the country.
“We need jobs created in Nigeria to take our young ones off the streets, to reduce insecurity and to promote national development and cohesion.”

Apart from Dangote, Elumelu and Otudeko, the other award winners were Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede; Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd); Chief Richard Onwuka, Deputy Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Ojeme Ewi-Irudiakpor; Aishatu Abubakar, Prof. Adesola Olatunde Adepoju, Hajia Vivian Idama, Georgina Ekeoma Ehuriah and Prof. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim.