No deal on $30b loan, Senate tells Buhari

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ABUJA, NOVEMBER 18, 2016 – Saraki says his meetings with Buhari not about borrowing President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid to borrow $29.96 billion suffered a fresh setback yesterday as Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki declared that the position of the National Assembly on the matter remained unchanged.

Saraki spoke amid speculation that his meeting with Buhari in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa would lead to the lawmakers approving the president’s plan to borrow. But Saraki said yesterday that his meetings with the president had nothing to do with the proposed loan.

Two weeks ago, the Senate rejected the president’s request to approve the request for the loan. Shortly after this, Saraki visited the Presidential Villa and met with Buhari many times, a development which prompted the speculation that the president might have used those meetings to persuade the Senate president to prevail on other senators to drop their opposition to the request for the loan.

But in a statement yesterday, Saraki expressed disappointment that his meetings with the president were being misconstrued to mean that the position of the Senate on the matter of the presidency’s loan request was being compromised.

In the statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki advised politicians and the media to avoid making what it called “empty speculations about his recent visits to the Presidential Villa and linking such visits to the request by the Buhari administration for approval of the National Assembly to get $29.96 billion loan from foreign sources.”

Saraki noted that the comments by some politicians on the loan issue without any factual basis were “unfortunate.”

“Like I once told the media, these politically-motivated commentaries are trivialising a serious national issue and presenting it as if it is a personal matter that can be decided at meetings between Saraki and President Muhammadu Buhari.”

“The National Assembly which I head as Senate president has taken a position on the issue as required of it by the laws of the land and legislative conventions. At every point, the present National Assembly will make decisions based on national interest and we have vowed that we will always act in the interest of our people.

That is why despite the fact that members belong to different parties, when national issues come to the floor, we forget about party affiliations and act as Nigerians elected to protect the interest of Nigeria,” he said.

The Senate president continued: “A visit to the Presidency by the Senate president is a normal thing because we need to consult, discuss, exchange ideas and make suggestions to each other from time to time. More importantly, at this time, when the nation is facing an economic crisis, there is the need for frequent engagements by the Presidency and the National Assembly.

“It is in fact very unfortunate that these empty speculations by the media are now forming the basis for commentaries by some politicians who are in a position to be better informed.

Politicians should stop playing to the gallery or drawing political capital from all issues. When serious national issues are on ground, we should refrain from making statements based on mere sentiments. Similarly, the media should exercise restraint in their reportage and commentaries in order to properly serve our people.

“At a time we are about to prepare a budget which is aimed at responding to the current recession and our plan is to ensure all issues concerning the budget are ironed out before the budget comes to the floor so that we will have a less tedious process than that of last year, the media should be ready to witness more of these engagements between the Presidency and the National Assembly,” Saraki stated.

Just on Wednesday, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, urged Saraki not to go back on the Senate’s rejection of the plan by the president to obtain the $29.96 billion foreign loan.

He said the loan would further ruin the country’s economy. In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Fayose asked: “What is the economic sense in taking over N12 trillion loan so as to be able to spend more money during the economic recession? How can a nation be proposing to spend more money when its income has reduced considerably?”

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