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National Assembly may reject Buhari’s fresh N4.2tr loan request

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President Muhammadu Buhari PHOTO: BAYO OMOBORIOWO


• Telecoms operators sue legislature over conflicting regulations

The National Assembly may reject the approval of another N4.2 trillion loan requested by President Muhammadu Buhari last month.It was learnt that the current request might face outright rejection owing to the failure of the presidency to render account of the N9. 2 trillion loan the National Assembly has approved since 2016.

Seeking the approval of the loan, President Buhari had explained, “the promissory note and bond issuance program has become imperative to
clear obligations, which include unpaid obligations to pensioners, salaries and promotional arrears
of civil servants; obligation to petroleum marketers; contractors and suppliers debt.

“Other issues for which the loan is being sought according to the President, are unpaid power bills and obligation from tariffs reversal in 2014; export expansion grant; judgement debt and refunds to state government for projects undertaken on behalf of the Federal Government.’’

Lawmakers who spoke in confidence said that the “sins” being counted against the latest loan request are multifaceted, leading to what they described as a near consensus feeling that the request be rejected.One of the perceived sins according to the lawmakers was the fact that the presidency has been disrespecting the institution of the National Assembly.

“There is a feeling among Senators and House members that the president is treating them with contempt if not disgust on key issues,” one lawmaker said.Another issue is the fact that the nation’s procurement law mandates the government to only borrow money for capital expenditure and the lawmakers are claiming that the bond appears a way of raising money to finance recurrent expenditure.

Senators and members of the House are worried that since the requested amendment to the Fiscal Responsibility Act has not been effected, this loan request stand in clear breach of the law.

Meanwhile, telecoms operators have sued the National Assembly (NASS) over what it described as conflicting roles of the legislators on its operations.The operators under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said the activities of the different committees in both the upper and lower legislative chambers have become a burden on their operations, by so doing needing a clearer interpretation by the court.

ALTON also lamented that its members currently languish under 38 different taxes and levies from government and its agencies.The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, at the weekend in Lagos, during an interaction with journalists, explained that the Association, had by a resolution at its general meeting held in October, last year, resolved that a firm of solicitors with good track record in handling high-profile constitutional law cases be instructed to institute an action in court seeking the court’s interpretation of the provisions of the constitution on the extent of the National Assembly (NASS)’s oversight functions on telecommunications companies.
 
As such, he said ALTON filed a suit in February at the Federal High Court, Abuja, challenging the various conflicting roles of the NASS on telecoms operators.Adebayo said ALTON members have been inundated with incessant summons from different committees of the NASS served on their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to appear before several NASS committees, which negatively impact on ability to focus on their business operations.

According to him, the NASS’ insistence on attendance of CEOs at such session was without consideration of these CEOs reasonable schedule conflict or the fact that other senior management staff may be better versed and suited due to the nature of their job roles vis-a-vis the subject matter of investigation. 
     
Adebayo said they have engaged the service of the court to determine, among others, extent of the NASS’ oversight functions as it relates to private companies and particularly, telecommunications companies being private companies; extent of the NASS’ oversight functions with respect to private companies and particularly, telecommunications companies which are already subject to regulatory oversight by regulators.

specific nature of information which the NASS can lawfully request from private companies including Telecommunications Companies, and whether it includes companies’ confidential information and information within the purview of government agencies; an order restraining the NASS from serving any further summons on Telecommunication Companies pending the determination of the action, among others.Reacting to the development, House Committee Chairman on ICT, Shehu Gusau, told The Guardian via the telephone yesterday that the NASS has the right to summon on anybody, even the business operators to Abuja for clarifications.


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Muhammadu Buhari‎
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