Senate And Search For ‘Missing N30trn’ Loans

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BY SIMON REEF MUSA

At last, the Senate under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio is rising up from its slumber as it declared penultimate Tuesday that it was resolved to unearth the circumstances under which the previous Senate, under Senator Ahmad Lawan, approved N30 trillion ways and means advances for the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The Senate Committee, headed by Senator Jibrin Isah, who represents Kogi East Senatorial District, is to probe the N30 trillion advances, and has a four-week deadline to submit its findings. The Senate’s resolution came on the heels of a report submitted by the Joint Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Finance, National Planning, Agriculture and Appropriation that drew attention of senators to the ‘N30 trillion’ ways and means advances approved for short-term funding without details provided by the former government.

Between 2017 and 2022, according to records, the Buhari government embarked on unprecedented financial recklessness in violating Section 38 (2) of the CBN Act that stipulates that ways and means advances shall not, “at any time exceed five per cent of the previous year’s actual revenue of the Federal Government.”

The Buhari-led administration violated the five percent from N856 billion to nearly N24 trillion, thus representing 2,635 percent in seven years.  From available records, in 2017, actual revenue was N2.7 trillion, but ways and means stood at N1. 1 trillion, representing 37.2 percent of previous year’s revenue of N2.95 trillion.  In 2018, actual revenue stood at N3.87 trillion, but ways and means loans was estimated at N2.1 trillion. In line with the CBN Act, the Buhari administration was legally entitled to take not more than N135 billion ways and means, which was five percent of N2.7 trillion revenue realised in 2017. In clear violation of the rules, the Buhari presidency took an overdraft of 77.8 percent of 2017 revenue.

Actual revenue in 2019 stood at N4.12 trillion, while ways and means loans stood at N3.3 trillion, representing 85.27 percent of the 2018 revenue. By 2020, actual revenue was estimated at N4.04 trillion, but ways and means loans hit N4.4 trillion, representing 107 percent of the 2019 revenue. In 2020, Buhari borrowed seven percent more than the revenue realised in 2019 from the Apex bank. Actual revenue in 2021 was N 4.64 trillion, whereas ways and means loans was put at N4.3 trillion, representing 106.4 percent of the 2020 revenue. Actual revenue in 2022 was N6,49 trillion, while ways and means loans from the CBN stood at N6.4 trillion, representing 138 percent of the 2021 revenue.

The highpoint of the Buhari-led administration was the unquestionable surrender of legislative powers in serving the interest of the presidency. Such a deliberate capitulation to Buhari was reiterated by no other person than the then Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who said the red chamber won’t waste time in signing anything that came from the presidency; an act that was not condoned by Senator Bukola Saraki who subjected presidential bills and requests under intense enquiry.

There’s no doubt that between 2019 and 2023, the Senate, under Lawan, was a mere extension of the presidency. No request from the presidency was turned back. To avoid being labelled as cogs in the wheel of progress, some principal officers of the Senate, who were devoted for due process, opted for ‘siddon look’ posture. Less than a year after the 10th National Assembly was inaugurated, the chickens are coming home to roost. The refusal by the Buhari government to provide details of projects funded by these loans is a reflection that these ways and means advances were acts of pervasive corruption.

The Senate was turned into an uproar when the request for the ‘N30trn’ overdraft was tabled before the red chamber. Many senators had demanded for details of projects funded or to be funded by these ways and means advances, but the leadership of the Senate had its way and assured members that details of projects would be provided. The Buhari government never provided such details.

Buhari’s eight years of locust and caterpillar catastrophise living conditions for Nigerians and set ablaze the economic fortunes of millions of citizens. Though funding of some intervention programmes never left any positive impacts on citizens, these advances and billions of dollars of loans obtained from China, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, only threw the country into a bottomless hole of suffocating debts. More worrisome, the apex bank became a table   where a vicious economic group only met to strangulate the fortunes of the nation.

Now that the Senate is about to probe into the ways and means through which the current economic hardship came to be, and ascertain why citizens have been plunged into crippling deprivation, the probe on the ‘missing N30trn’ advances must be carried out with precision to a logical conclusion. To some Nigerians, including yours sincerely, the Buhari government may turn out to be a vicious pillager that unleashed ruthless devastation on our economy. Little wonder, the prevailing inflationary trend remains unstoppable as the country’s financial system is flooded in choking debts, leading to the devaluation of the naira.

Only through the resolution of these ways and means advances that were not backed by any details could provide a roadmap in tackling current hardship experienced by Nigerians, including recommending and implementing measures aimed at ameliorating the biting hunger ripping across our nation. The Senate must get to the roots of these illegalities. Those who plunged our economy into this bottomless pit of debts must be made to answer for their crimes. Unravelling the mystery behind the ‘missing N30trn’ advances remains key in understanding our present predicament.

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