By Dipo Olowookere
The decision of the Federal Government to allegedly issue N117 billion bonds to pay local contractors owed for projects executed in the country without the approval of the National Assembly has irked the House of Representatives.
On Monday, the lower parliament rebuked government for issuing the bonds without first getting its approval as required by law.
“I noticed there was a document submitted by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. For 2017, there was a provision for N177 billion to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors.
“By that nomenclature, the bonds have been issued for you to want to retire it. The parliament does not recollect the programme.
“Yes, we recollect a policy statement that we want to issue promissory notes for local contractors’ debts so that can liquidate it to make money, create jobs and return people to their jobs.
“That was a policy decision, but when you say to retire maturing bonds, that means those bonds have been issued. When were they issued? How much was issued? Those were the questions?” Chairman of the House Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management, Mr Adeyinka Ajayi, pointed out.
Mr Ajayi lamented that because the bonds have been issued, the debts have become a liability of Nigeria, adding that it was necessary for the National Assembly to be aware and approve it before the Minister of Finance signs off on that guarantee.
He noted that the explanation given by the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze, that the money was a projection of what the administration is expecting at the maturity of the bond when they would be issued, was untenable.
It was learnt that the bonds were initially included by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning in the 2017 Budget, as part of the government’s effort to pay off N2 trillion owed local contractors.
The lawmaker made this challenge during a briefing of the House Joint Committee on 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) by the government.
At the briefing yesterday were officials of the Ministry of National Budget and Planning, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Budget Office and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
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