;l-r;President Muhammadu Buhari (left), President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt (Hon.) Femi Gbajabiamila, during the 2020 Budget presentation by the President at the National Assembly

The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday approved the federal government’s request to borrow a total of $2.7 billion out of the $5.5 billion external borrowing request sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in May last year.

The external loans comprise $1.5 billion, to be sourced from the World Bank, and €995 million ($1.2 billion) from other international agencies, for the federal and state governments.

If the loans are accessed, it will jack up Nigeria’s total public debt, which as of December 31, 2020 was N32.915 trillion ($84.574 billion), according to data from the Debt Management Office (DMO), according to ThisDay.

Of this, 37.82 per cent was external, while the balance of 62.18 per cent was domestic.

The Senate also approved N257,183,671,694.71) for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for the 2021 fiscal year.

The approval for the external borrowing, at yesterday’s plenary, followed the consideration and adoption of a report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, chaired by Senator Clifford Ordia (Edo Central).

President Muhammadu Buhari had last May requested the Senate to approve the external borrowing to finance various priority projects of the federal government and to support the state governments facing fiscal challenges.

Ordia, while presenting the report, said $1.5 billion would be sourced from the World Bank to finance projects of state governments facing fiscal challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, while the €995 million would be sourced from other multilateral and bilateral global lenders.

The tenor/moratorium of the loan to be sought from the World Bank is 25 years at an interest rate of 2.45 per cent per annum; while that from the Export-Import Bank of Brazil is for 15 years at an interest rate of 2.935 per cent; and the loan request from the Deutsche Bank of Germany for seven years at a 2.87 per cent interest rate.

The lenders, according to him, have proven track record of previous financial accommodation and support to Nigeria.

Ordia said the loan for the states would be used to fund projects under the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme and COVID-19 Action recovery and economic stimulus programme to support state-level efforts to protect livelihoods, ensure food security and stimulate economic activity (N-CARES).

He stated that the interventions would target existing and newly vulnerable and poor households, farmers, Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) affected by the economic crises caused by the pandemic.

According to him, the €995 million to be sourced from the Export-Import Bank of Brazil (€671, 000,00) and Deutsche Bank of Germany (€324,000,000) is to finance the federal government’s Green Imperative Project to enhance mechanisation of agriculture and agro process in Nigeria to improve food security.

He said the $750,000,000 for States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability programme would be sourced from the World Bank, while the $750,000,000 COVID-19 Action recovery and economic stimulus programme to support states’ efforts at protecting livelihoods and ensuring food security, will also be sourced from the World Bank.

Ordia, according to ThisDay, said the borrowings were concessional loans with low interest rates and a reasonable moratorium and payback period.

He added that each state is entitled to access a $20,000,000 grant under the programme provided that it achieves a minimum of four disbursement linked indicators while the PCT is entitled to $15,000,000.

He said: “The committee most importantly notes that the indicative terms and conditions under which the loan will be borrowed, there are no unusual or onerous conditions attached and the terms do not in any manner compromise the sustainability of the Nigerian economy or impugn the integrity and independence of Nigeria as a sovereign nation.”

In his contribution, Senator Solomon Olamilekan (APC, Lagos West) said going ahead to approve the loan request would demonstrate the proactiveness by the National Assembly to insulate the economy from a possible decline.

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) sought to know if the committee in coming up with its recommendations was privy to the terms and conditions of the loan agreement.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, advised the committee to liaise with the Debt Management Office for updates on the total loans accessed by the federal government.

Buhari, in a letter dated May 19, 2020, had sought the approval of the National Assembly to secure a foreign loan totalling $5.513 billion to finance deficits contained in the 2020 budget.

He had said the loan would be sourced from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank, Export, Import Bank of Brazil and the African Export, Import Bank.

According to him, out of the total $5.513 billion loan request, $3.4 billion would be sourced from the International Monetary Fund; $1.5 billion from the World Bank; $500 million from the African Development Bank and $113 million from the Islamic Development Bank.

Senate Passes N257bn 2021 Budget for Customs

The Senate also yesterday approved N257,183,671,694.71) for the Customs for the 2021 fiscal year.

It also approved N1.678 trillion as the target revenue of the agency for 2021.

The approvals were sequel to the consideration and adoption of a report of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff.

Presenting the report, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Francis Alimikhena, said out of the N257,183,671,694.71 approved as Customs budget for 2021, N137,933,180,013.00 was for capital expenditure while personnel and overhead costs were N99,719,722,681.71 and N19,530,769,000.00, respectively.

According to the report, out of the N19 billion earmarked for overhead costs, N2 billion is for welfare incentive for retiring staff, N180 million for fumigation, N3 billion for local travels and transport, N100 million for internet access charges, N200 million for aircraft maintenance, N250 million for maintenance of motor vehicles/ transport equipment, N200 million for maintenance of plant generators.

Other maintenance services include, ”N1.2 billion for local training, N500 million for legal services, N400 million for motor fuel cost, N400 million for plant and generators fuel cost, N100 million for aircraft fuel cost, N90 million for refreshment and meals, N1,570,769,000 for recruitment and appointment, N5 billion for motor vehicle advances, among others.”

On capital projects, N1.6 billion was earmarked for boreholes and other water facilities, N15.9 billion for motor vehicles, N81 million for shredding machine, N87 million for photocopies.

Alimikhena said during the budget defence session, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (rtd). He said the management team made presentations and also made clarifications on the areas the committee sought for further information.

He said the initial approved revenue target for 2020 stood at N1.679 trillion, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was revised to N1.380 trillion.

For 2021 fiscal year, Alimikhena said the revenue target was pegged at N1.465 trillion, comprising N1.267 trillion for Federation Account and N197.996 billion for Non-federation Account respectively, but the committee deemed this target to be inadequate, while taking cognisance of the recently assented Finance Act, 2021.

ThisDay

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