By Taiye Odewale
Senators yesterday expressed worry over what they described as the “ever- increasing debt profile of the country.”
They, during the debate over the general principle of the 2018 budget which entered its third day yesterday, said the way country’s debt profile “is rising is worrisome.”
Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West) asked the Senate committee on Local and Foreign Debts to look critically in order to determine the actual country’s debt profile.
However, Senator Rabiu Kwankawso (Kano Central) said the country must be careful not to fall into unnecessary debt trap again, while Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South) noted that the debt profile of the country had been steadily on the rise.
The Senate had, on Wednesday, temporarily put on hold consideration of the report of Joint Committee on Finance, Appropriation and National Planning and Economic Affairs on the 2018- 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Explaining, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North) made it known that the decision of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on production quota y would guide the Senate to take informed position on some parameters of the MTEF.
However, the Senate had assured and resolved that the MTEF would be considered and passed on December 5, 2017.
On the debt high profile, Adeola said: “I call on the committee on Local and Foreign Debts to critically look at the countries debt profile. The committee should determine and tell Nigerians the true profile of the country’s debts. How much of the debt service are we actually fulfilling. It is important that we know to guide us in our actions.”
He noted that it would have been better if the National Assembly was furnished with the budget performance of 2017 to enable members to make meaningful comparism, adding that that “it is belief that the issue of virement for 2017 had died a natural death and would not come up again in view of the presentation of the 2018 budget.”
Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (PDP Ebonyi South) wondered why the 2018 budget was christened “a budget of consolidation,” asking “I don’t know what we are consolidating. Is it the 2017 budget that is barely implemented that we are consolidating? Are we consolidating incomplete payment of salary or salary that is not paid at all?”
The Senate President Bukola Saraki explained later that the budget was rightly christened budget of consolidation “because the country has just recovered from recession, saying “now is the time to build the economy.”
According to him, since MTEF has not been passed, the passage of the budget for second reading will have to wait till next week.