The Senate on Tuesday requested additional information on the proposed $1.5 billion and €995 million (Euro) foreign loans to be taken by the federal government to execute some agricultural projects across the country.
It also suspended approval for the N8.5 billion 2021 budget of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Internal Revenue Service (IRS) due to discrepancies in the figures contained in the proposals.
The Senate committee on local and foreign debts at an interface with the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Debt Management Office over €995million and $1.5billion foreign loans directed them to furnish it with more details before approval can be given.
This was due to the inability of both the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Mohammed Nanono, and the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Mrs. Patience Oniha, to give the committee satisfactory answer on government preparedness for the loans.
The plan of actions tabled before the committee by the Minister of Agriculture on the 995million Euros loans being sought for Agricultural Mechanization across the 774 local government councils in the country, was faulted by most members of the committee headed by Senator Clifford Ordia.
The minister had in his submission said since out of the 92million hectares of cultivable land available in the country, only 34 million hectares are utilized now, 780 service centres have been set up across the country for mechanized farming.
He said: “The Ministry is seriously in bilateral partnership with Brazil where 300 tractors are to be bought and imported for the project this year once the loan is approved. The country as it is today is in a deficit of 60,000 tractors, the reason why the Ministry is planning for procurement of 5,000 tractors every three, three years. All these plans of ours, are geared towards food security in the country the population of which will be 400 million in about 40years from now”.
But the committee members including Senators Uba Sani, Birma Enagi, Adelere Oriolowo, Francis Alimikhena told the Minister that beautiful plans are different from practical Implementation.
Senator Oriolowo told the Minister that based on personal experience, the plans he tabled before them will not yield any positive results.
According to him, “the tractors you are planning to bring from Brazil, will in no distant time run aground by people who are not trained for proper usage of such machines as it happened in Osun and Borno States recently.
“Capacity building is very important for people to be engaged in the Mechanised farming which we didn’t hear from your presentation and besides, are you in touch with the real farmers who if actually involved will make the project impactful.
“Beautiful plans like the ones you have just unfolded, are not new in this country. Please rejig the plans to be in tune with productivity needs of the real or rural farmers if you don’t want the money being sought for to go down in drains”.
On the $1.5billion loan being sought for the 36 states government and the Federal Capital Territory, for the execution of critical infrastructure against the resurgence of COVID – 19 pandemic, the committee Chairman, Senator Ordia, directed the DG of DMO, to furnish them with the creditworthiness of the states which she couldn’t provide.
The Committee, therefore, resolved that the DG, DMO, must furnish it with such information before approval can be given for the loan.
Said Ordia: “We have listened to the presentations made by the Minister of Agriculture on the need for the approval of the 995m Euros loan and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Ahmed, on the need for the approval of $1.5bn loan meant for the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, but the required details of planned execution requested for must be given before the approval”.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate Committee on FCT suspended the approval of the N8.5 billion FCT-IRS budget proposal based on series of discrepancies in the proposals.
The parastatal was, however, directed to appear before the Committee headed by Senator Abubakar Kyari, on Thursday for a re-presentation of the budget estimates.