My brother, Femi Adesina, the President’s special adviser for media and advertising, once remarked that those who believe need no further explanation, and not even those who have decided not to believe it. I can’t agree more with Femi. However, to guide people to formulate and implement policies, the government needs to talk to them, whether minds are open, have strong opinions or even biased. This is why communication is a key element in the governance process, even more so in a democracy. Understanding the composition of politics is important in developing a communication strategy that conveys messages effectively and regularly to all layers of politics and minimizes the impact of mischievous cynics.
In line with Femi’s observation, convincing some people to share a viewpoint with the government is like forcing a horse into the river to drink something. Those can even go one step further by misinforming others, often deliberately. This is a familiar scenario in our politics in recent times. It is frightening, but we must expect from our confrontation policy.
The Senate, in a special plenary session on Tuesday 28 April 2020, approved the executive’s request to borrow N850 billion from the national capital market. Since then, the request, as well as legislative approval, have generated mixed media comments.
The Senate had to end the plenary suspension of the COVID-19 pandemic for the special session. This was due to the urgent need to provide legislative support to the federal government to deal with the pandemic and its socioeconomic consequences in Nigeria. Since its surreptitious arrival at the end of last year in a corner of the world, the ruthless virus has spread death and misery indiscriminately all over the world, making all government and society plans for 2020 and the immediate future insignificant. One of the hardest hit plans here is the 2020 budget. Ironically, this budget was approved seriously and enthusiastically last year by a national assembly determined to institutionalize a new tax cycle from January to December to improve the performance of our annual budgets. . .
In that special session of the Upper House on Tuesday, the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, acknowledged four communications from the executive. But what, understandably, was of great public interest is the request for approval of the 850 billion dollar debt plan of the national capital market.
The goal of this piece is not to discuss the convenience or otherwise of the loan plan. Instead, it is to clear things up and correct the misconception or distortion in the communication that the Senate has approved a new loan request from the executive. No, the Senate has done nothing of the sort!
The obvious intention of the suppliers of this disinformation is to consolidate their mischievous 9th Senate cartoon as a legislative chamber on the rubber stamp. What is said here will not discourage those people, but at least it will make things clear and warn the unwary about their recurring antics.
Of course, the Ninth National Assembly does not apologize for its commitment to work in harmony with the other branches of government in the best general interest of the people they represent. Yes, this is a guiding philosophy for federal legislators. It is clear that there are people who are not comfortable with government cooperation in the arms, perhaps because of their understanding of the concepts of independence of institutions and separation of powers. Some see democracy in action only when guns and officials take care and fight on every issue. You are wrong.
Since then, this segment of people has taken control of traditional and social media to represent the Senate by convening Tuesday’s special session to “seal” a new loan request from the executive. This representation brings the executive communication to the Senate and subsequent approval completely out of context.
The N850 billion loan request was, in fact, approved by the National Assembly long ago as part of the 2020 budget. The letter from President Muhammadu Buhari to the President of the Senate, dated March 24, 2020, made clear reference to this fact. The president, in his letter, reminded the Upper House that the 2020 allocation law provided for a new loan N.5.594.986.007.544,00, which includes a new internal loan N744.986.007.544,00 and N850 billion external loan again. The letter explained that these loans would co-finance the 2020 budget deficit of N220.127.116.115.232.00.
The letter says in part: “The Senate may wish to emphasize that external loans from international capital markets increase Nigeria’s foreign reserves, provide access to cheap and longer-term funds and avoid weakening borrowers in the sector. However, recent developments in the global economic environment following the Coronavirus pandemic and falling international oil prices have made lending from International Capital Markets less attractive right now.
“To ensure that there are adequate funds to finance critical projects and programs in the 2020 budget, I request, with the resolution, the approval of the Senate to collect the N850 billion of new external loans, in Naira, from the national capital market, instead of “International capital markets. However, our intention is to access international capital markets when global conditions improve, to refinance the 850 billion new loans and optimize the benefits inherent in the external loan.”
The summary, therefore, is that the President only asked for Senate approval to vary the source of a loan that the legislator had previously granted him approval to obtain.
From this simple explanation, it becomes difficult to see how the Senate would vote against a loan already contained in the 2020 Allocation Act. How could Buhari have made a new loan request that is already in the 2020 Budget?
Buhari simply asked lawmakers to allow him to obtain the loan from the internal capital market, rather than from the international capital markets for which he had previously obtained approval. Nothing more. Nothing less. So why do critics criticize the wisdom of the Senate and its leadership in approving Buhari’s request in this critical period of struggle against the Coronavirus pandemic? This is certainly not the time or problem for the legislator to fight with the executive. There is no basis for any dispute over this presidential claim, unless we are glamorous with unwarranted injustices. It’s no secret that some people are really waiting for him. They will wait in vain.
The executive part has explained many times why they resort to loans during this period. Revenue is falling, but infrastructure and other deficits are widening. The population is expanding, increasing the demand for jobs and social services. These needs would not wait until the government can generate the revenue itself.
The coronavirus pandemic has only complicated the tax challenges for us here as for other countries around the world. This is one of the reasons why it makes no sense to continue the initial overseas loan plan. The forecast was strident that the world, including Nigeria, is once again marching towards another recession.
In declarations to the legislator, the President of the Senate committed himself to a global legislative control over the disbursement of all the borrowed funds. After each legislative approval for any loan plan, Lawan tirelessly reiterated the legislator’s request for liability for the expenses. If such a promise has failed in the past, it will not do so in this pantry. Lawmakers from all corridors realize that the executive needs the necessary legislative support so that Nigeria can withstand the storms that have hit us and the rest of the world and will continue to do so without compromising the independence of its institution and its supervision function. .