BUDGET 2018 : SENATORS WARNED OVER NIGERIA’S RISING DEBT PROFILE
Senators Tuesday expressed concern over what they described as the ever increasing debt profile.
Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West) asked the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts to determine Nigeria’ actual debt profile. His counterpart form Kano Central, Rabiu Kwankawso, said the country must be careful not to fall into unnecessary debt trap again.
Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South) noted the country’s debt profile had been steadily on the rise.
The concerns were expressed as the Senate yesterday shelved debate on the report of its Joint Committee on Finance, Appropriation, National Planning and Economic Affairs on the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North) said yesterday’s decision of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on production quota will guide the Senate to take informed position on some parameters of the MTEF.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided before Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki took over, agreed and thanked Lawan for the information.
The chamber resolved that the MTEF would be considered and passed next Tuesday (December 5).
The lawmakers raised the concerns when they resumed consideration of the general principles of the budget.
Adeola said: “I call on the committee on Local and Foreign Debts to critically look at the countries debt profile. The committee should determine and tell Nigerians the true profile of the country’s debts. How much of the debt service are we actually fulfilling. It is important that we know to guide us in our actions.”
The Lagos West senator noted that it would have been better if the National Assembly was furnished with the budget performance of 2017 to guide member’s debate.
He also said that the issue of virement for 2017 had died a natural death and would not come up again in view of the presentation of the 2018 budget.
Adeola prayed the country to reconsider the number of agencies and do away with those that were adding no value to the country.
Kwankwaso said the executive arm of government should be supported to maintain the prevailing stability in the Niger Delta to ensure that the oil production quota is met.
The Kano Central lawmaker said that he will not support borrowing locally or from the international market except if it is absolutely necessary.
His fear, however, is that if care is not taken, the country may fall back into the debt trap especially if borrowed funds are mismanaged.
Ogbuoji wondered why the 2018 Budget was tagged a “Budget of Consolidation.”
He asked: “I don’t know what we are consolidating. Is it the 2017 budget that is barely implemented that we are consolidating. Are we consolidating incomplete payment of salary or salary that is not paid at all.”