Two senate’s standing committees, came hard on relevant agencies of the executive arm of government expecting foreign loans and seeking approval for 2021 budget proposals .
The upper legislative chamber committee on local and foreign debts at an interface with the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Debt Management office demanded for details on 995million Euros and $1.5billion foreign loans before approval.
Also the Committee on FCT, suspended approval of the N8.5billion 2021 budget proposal tabled before it by FCT – IRS.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono and the Director General of Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, failed to give the Committee satisfactory answer on how prepared they are for the loans.
Hence, two segments of foreign loans being sought by the federal government for Mechanized farming and execution of critical infrastructure across the 36 states of the federation in preventing the third wave of COVID – 19 in the country came under scrutiny.
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 virtually all the members of the committee headed by Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP Edo Central).
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 the mechanized farming.
“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 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 400million in about 40years from now .
But the committee members from Senator Uba Sani (APC Kaduna Central) , Birma Enagi (APC Niger South), Adelere Oriolowo ( APC Osun West ), Francis Alimikhena ( APC Edo North) etc, told the Minister that beautiful plans are different from practical Implementation .
Senator Oriolowo who is an Agricultural Engineer by profession told the Minister that based on personal experience, the plans he tabled before them will not yield any positive results .
“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 “, he said.
On the $1.5billion loan being sought for the 36 state governments and the federal capital Territory, for execution of critical infrastructure against resurgence of COVID – 19 pandemic, the Committee Chairman , Clifford Ordia, directed the DG DMO, to furnish them with credit worthiness of the states , which she couldn’t provide .
Consequently, the Committee resolved that the DG, DMO, must furnish it with such information before approval can be given for the loan.
“We have listened to the presentations made by the Minister of Agriculture on the need for approval of the 995m Euros loan and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Ahmed, on the need for 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”, he said.
Similar scenario played out at the interface between the Senate Committee on FCT and officials of FCT – IRS, with rejection of N8.5 billion 2021 budget proposal made based on series of discrepancies in the proposals.
The Agency was however directed to appear before the Committee headed by Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC Borno North), on Thursday for a repeat of the budget presentation.