Senators who are members of the All Progressive Congress have said their opposition to President Jonathan’s $1 billion loan request did not mean they did not support the president’s war against terrorism.
Members of the APC in the upper chamber had kicked against the approval of the loan to procure military hardware, though their counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party supported it and their voice votes were upheld by Senate President David Mark during plenary on Thursday.
But speaking with our correspondent on the issue, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, (APC, Ekiti Central), said his colleagues were not opposed to endorsing the bid by Jonathan to raise money for the military to combat terrorism but that they were opposed to borrowing money for that purpose.
He also stated that the legislators were against the idea of seeking such approval through a letter of request, instead of bringing a supplementary appropriation bill, as recognised by law.
He said, “The Constitution recognises laid-down rules for appropriation and since the procedure adopted by the Presidency contradicted the rules, we don’t want to be part of constitution violators. Besides, we don’t believe we should borrow money for that purpose.”
Also, the leader of the opposition in the Senate, George Akume, said his colleagues voted against the loan approval because they wanted to be guided by the law of the country.
He said his colleagues were opposed to the approval to avoid constitutional breaches, which he said had been frequently recorded in the country for too long.
Akume said, “If we want to borrow, let us follow what is stipulated in the Constitution so that we know where we are going. We have raised fundamental issues and the Senate must be guided by the provisions of the Constitution, as far as this matter is concerned “
Also, Akume said the opposition party was not against obtaining a loan to fight insurgency, but that the proper process must be followed to get the loan.
He insisted that APC members had raised issues that touched on the Constitution, which superseded the Procurement Act used as defence by the PDP senators.
Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (APC, Ekiti North) also explained that the Senate approval of the loan had contradicted constitutional provisions, as contained in Sections 83, 81(4) A and B of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He argued that the loan request also had consequences for the existing Appropriation Act.
He said, “We did not question the right of Mr. President to ask for money or to borrow money but there is a process that needs to be followed and the provisions of the Constitution for the process.”
He said his position was not to question the right to address the issue but to draw attention to the procedures that are stipulated in the Constitution and the act of the parliament.
Adetumbi explained that Jonathan’s letter was a request for authority to borrow and that the borrowing plans of Nigeria is contained in the Medium Terms Expenditure Framework. He demanded to know whether the $1bn loan was within the MTEF.
He asked whether the MTEF needed to be amended and a supplementary appropriation for purposes of security be brought to the parliament so that a supplementary appropriation can be approved for the President to undertake his constitutional responsibility as the Chief Security Officer of Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Finance, and that of Local and Foreign Debt, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, while presenting his report, had clarified that all the issues raised by his colleagues in the APC were not relevant because there was no inflow or outflow of cash in the loan request.
Makarfi had said the appropriation bill could only be necessary when the request involved cash, adding that the military hardware being requested would be taken on credit and would be paid for over a period of seven years.
He said, “Each year, that we make a repayment, it will be in the Appropriation Act. The National Assembly will appropriate repayment. The Executive cannot just go and pay.”