Nigeria’s rising debt profile became a source of worry for Senators on Wednesday as the lawmakers started the debate on general principles of the N8. 83 trillion 2019 budget.
The lawmakers had to caution the executive so as not to return the country back to debtor status.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu ( PDP Enugu West) who was the first to raise the alarm during his contributions, said that though the budget proposals have to be given expeditious consideration and passage in view of enormous time already lost on the bill but its borrowing plans must be scrutinized to prevent the country from exceeding its limit when juxtaposed with the ratio of Gross Domestic Product ( GDP).
His contributions came just after the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan ( APC Yobe North) had given the lead debate on the budget estimates for passage for second reading.
Ekweremadu in his contribution said: “Time is already running out on us as regards consideration and passage of the 2019 budget estimates but the increasing borrowing proposals cum plans on our yearly budget is becoming unbearable.
“Yes, money must be sought for by any government to fund infrastructure but it must not be solely anchored on borrowing which in the long run, will take the country back to a problem it had earlier solved.
“Besides, there are other creative ways of funding such highly needed infrastructure “, he said.
Also, while making his contributions to the debate, Senator Dino Melaye ( PDP Kogi West), said that the debt profile of the country now is $60 billion from less than $20billion it was before the present government came on board in 2015.
According to him, the components of the $60 billion debts profile are $23billion as external debt, $20billion as local debts while $12 billion is already being proposed for the financing of Port Harcourt to Maiduguri Rail lines
Melaye said: “Nigeria is gradually turning to a chartered borrowing Nation under this government all in the name of funding infrastructure.
” This must be stopped because the future of the country and in particular, lives of generations yet unborn are being put in danger,” he lamented.
He added that even with the high level of indebtedness of the country, the government in power was planning to further devalue the Naira to about N500 to a US dollar and that the Nigeria Stock market suffered a misfortune of N300 billion loss two weeks ago when President Muhammadu Buhari got re-elected.
“Inflation is on the rise, the unemployment rate is increasing, assumptions made for the budget estimates as regards $60 oil price benchmark and N2.3million barrel oil production level per day are unrealisable and unrealistic”, he added.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani ( PRP Kaduna Central) also asked the executive to supply the details of the 2019 borrowing as indicated in the budget proposal.
Senator Albert Akpan Bassey (PDP Akwa Ibom North East ) was also one of the lawmakers who raised caution on the rising debt profile of the country.
But Senators Gbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East), Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), Jibrin Barau ( APC Kano North) and Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah ( APC Kebbi South) said the debts profile was not as outrageous as being portrayed.
Na’Allah in his contribution said that Nigeria is rather “grossly under borrowing” when the total amount borrowed is juxtaposed with her population and resources both human and capital.
Though Senator Ali Ndume ( APC Borno South), moved a motion for the budget to pass for second reading yesterday in view of enormous time already lost in its consideration but the Senate President, Bukola Saraki ruled that the debate should continue and end next week Tuesday.