OrderPaperToday – Senators were divided over the level of borrowing proposed in the 2016 budget with some justifying it and others opposing.
This came to the fore at the resumption of plenary on Thursday during debate on the budget.
Those who spoke in support of the borrowing plan said it was a welcome development as it was unlike in previous dispensations where loans were taken to service recurrent expenditure instead of capital projects.
Sen. Dino Melaye, Chairman Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), said though there was so much agitation about borrowing to finance the 2016 budget, there was nothing wrong with borrowing per se.
He said that the United States, which is the strongest democracy in the world, was the highest borrowing nation.
He noted that the most important thing was utilisation of borrowed funds, vouching that the present administration was going to borrow for the benefit of common Nigerians.
Melaye said: “The question here is what do you do with what you are borrowing? In the past we borrowed but our performance was a beautiful nonsense.
“We have borrowed in the past and used it to the benefit of individuals. The Dasuki gate is a typical example. But this time we have a progressive government, we have men in power who will administer the administration of power with every sincerity of purpose of heart and commitment.
“Borrowing this time will be judiciously used to the benefit of the “talakawas, the mekunus’’ and the palm wine tappers. I am particularly happy that instead of funding `malams and marabouts’ with N4billion, this progressive government of APC has decided to convert money meant for celestial, spiritual and diabolical activities into providing school uniforms and free feeding for our sons and daughters.
“Instead of re-appropriating our national patrimony in purchasing stove, this government has decided that unemployed young Nigerians will go home every month with a take home.
“This is a departure from the wastages of the past. This is a complete difference from a situation where one single Nigerian decides to appropriate money to friends and cronies.”
The lawmaker who said he was blind while he belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but could now see since his cross over to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), called on his colleagues to exercise their power by passing the budgeting irrespective of party affiliations.
He however solicited with the senate to pay attention to the FCT budget, saying it was grossly inadequate.
On his part, Sen. Sabi Aliyu, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said the borrowing plan of the present administration unlike previous borrowing plans was justifiable, adding that it was targeted at infrastructural development and other meaningful projects.
According to him, “It is on record that most of the debts these government is expected to service are corrupt debts. We are paying debts we don’t even know what they represent because some of the projects we are made to pay for are abandoned projects. We are not going to pay for debt that did not accrue benefit for Nigerians.
“If we are borrowing it is not to pay frivolities but infrastructural development and critical service providers so that at the end of the day the Nigerian people are the beneficiaries.’’
Aliyu commended the executive for making adequate provision for diversification of the economy and unemployment among other social benefits for citizens.
However, Deputy Minority Whip, Sen. Biodun Olujinmi said the level of expenditure and deficit were the major challenges in the actualization of the budget.
She said there was a need for the Federal Government to set up a solid economic team to take a look better look at the budget.
She said while economic problems were not limited to Nigeria, the country ought to be ingenious to bring about a budget of social change.
She said: “Right now we have a deficit of 11 dollars on every barrel of oil we sell and in the budget we have a deficit of N2.2 trillion.
“Now, 11 dollar deficit will take that deficit to N 2.6 trillion and the problem is that if we need to borrow to manage this 2.6 trillion it means we will be borrowing N 500 million every day of this year.
“What this means is that every day of this year, this government will look for N500 million to borrow and that is not mean feat.
“To crown it all there is nothing in this budget that suggests repayment for this debt, nothing has been set aside to ensure that we pay back our loan.
“A country that borrows and does not plan to pay back has not done enough work at all and what we will be doing by this is that we will be giving the people with one hand and we will be taking from them from both hands.”
The deputy minority whip further called for policies that would reposition the economy, adding that the level of policy somersault in the country was not encouraging.
She stressed that while Nigeria could run with the budget for the time being, there was need for a better budget going forward.