External loan: Buhari runs most prudent administration since 1999 – Lukman
By Jide Orintunsin, Abuja
The Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman has said that Nigeria’s fiscal management indices have shown that no administration has been as prudent as President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
Lukman’s statement is in reaction to the public outcry that greeted President Buhari’s request of National Assembly approval for an external borrowing plan to finance the deficit in the 2021 Federal Government budget titled “Nigeria’s debt and struggle for New Nigeria”.
The PGF boss, who is also a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, said the hues and cries were “politically motivated”.
He admitted that members of the public are entitled to subject government policies critical analysis but noted that the ongoing debate over the proposed foreign loans is based on the value of the amount Nigeria owe.
Lukman maintained that critics of the external borrowings ignored the variables of both the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and revenue in their argument.
According to him: “Without any doubt, some of the concerns expressed in the debate are legitimate, especially about problems of the exchange rate, which has further increased Nigeria’s debt burden. But in terms of looking at other critical variables such as revenue profile and even performance of the economy, the debate is excessively politicisation.
“This is partly responsible for why some even suggest that compared to all previous PDP administrations between 1999 and 2015, the performance of the APC-led administration of President Buhari is reckless.”
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Faulting this position, Lukman said fiscal management indices between 1999 and 2020, despite debt cancellation during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, indicated the six years of President Buhari has been more prudent than the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PGF boss said: “For instance, President Buhari is implementing one of the most ambitious National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) in the country since independence. Under the program, to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, millions of poor Nigerians are benefiting from these initiatives.
“One of the components of the program, Government Enterprise, and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), N36.9 billion in interest-free loans of between N50,000 to N350,000 has been disbursed to more than 2.3 million Nigerians. Under another component of the Programme Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, 9.9 million primary 1 – 3 pupils in 54,952 public primary schools in 35 States have benefited. Additional 107,000 cooks have been engaged.
“In the case of Conditional Cash Transfer, the third component, more than 3 million poor and vulnerable households have been registered on the National Social Register, out of which more than one million families are currently being paid N5,000 monthly.
“In the area of infrastructure, APC led administration of President Buhari has increased annual budgetary allocation for Federal Roads to about N260 billion as against the allocation of 18 billion Naira in 2015 under PDP administration.”
The APC chieftain said: “More resources were devoted to the construction of road and transport infrastructure than any other administration since 1999, and the results are roads, bridges, highways, rail lines and stations, and air and seaport upgrades. Work has since resumed on several stalled, abandoned or solution-defying road projects that were inherited, like the Loko-Oweto Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Sagamu-Benin Expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway, Obajana-Kabba Road, Ilorin-Jebba Road, Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Road, and several others are in progress, with some already close to completion.
“A brand-new bridge in Ikom, Cross River State, was completed, which replaced the dilapidated steel truss bridge originally built five decades ago, as was a new border bridge linking Nigeria and Cameroon, in the spirit of regional integration. Construction work on the Second Niger Bridge, a contract awarded multiple times between 2002 and 2015, under PDP administration, but constantly stalled for lack of funding, finally kicked off in 2018, with guaranteed funding, for the first time in the history of the project.”
The PGF boss then called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to urgently address and arrest the continued slide of the Naira against the dollar to help effectively manage our foreign exchange.
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