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Senate seeks more information on CBN N23.7 trln Ways & Means, summons Ahmed, Emefiele again

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Following opposition to the restructuring of the N23.7 trillion Ways and Means facility advanced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the Federal Government over the last decade, the Senate Tuesday directed the Minister of Finance and Budget, Zainab Ahmed, and the governor of the regulatory bank, Godwin Emefiele, to provide details to its Special Committee within three days.

The red chamber, which witnessed a rowdy session over the request last December, warned that with the presidential and National Assembly elections coming up next month, it would be forced to adjourn plenary this week, or at most next Tuesday, to participate in the campaigns.

The warning came in response to a motion by its Leader, who is also the chairman of the special panel formed to interact with the minister and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The chairman informed the chamber that several attempts by the committee to meet with the two officials since December 28, 2022, had been unsuccessful, citing Order 40 of the Senate Standing Rules.

He said: “As a special committee (raised) for an urgent and thorough assignment, we hit the ground running immediately after composition on December 28 last year.

“For details on the N23.7 trillion Ways and Means Restructuring, six vital questions were raised – five for the CBN governor and one for the Finance Minister – but their trips abroad prevented us from asking them the questions.

“Now that they are around, we request the Senate to give us additional three days for a thorough work and submission of the report.” Responding, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, noted that the request by President Muhammad Buhari remains a serious issue that must not be treated with levity.

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He promised that the upper legislative chamber would approve the bill after careful consideration.

“The Ways and Means advance by the CBN to the Federal Government has been a funding option to the Federal Government

to cater for short-term or emergency finance to fund delayed government’s expected cash receipt of physical deficit,

“The Ways and Means balances as at December 19, 2022 were N23.7 trillion.

“I have approved the securitisation of the ways and means balances along the following terms – Amount: N23.7 trillion; Tenure: 40 years; Moratorium on principal repayment: three years; Pricing interest rate: nine percent.

“Your concurrence and approval is sought to allow for the implementation of same.” But moves by the Senate to sanction the request during passage of the N21.83 trillion 2023 budget on December 28 last year failed, making it to set up the Senator Gobir-led special committee to seek vital information.

However, in response to the lawmakers’ objections, President Buhari told the Senate during a meeting that if they continued to oppose the plan to restructure government loans from the CBN, the country would be forced to pay an additional $4 billion in debt service.

Failure to grant the securitisation approval, he said, would cost the government N1.8 trillion in additional interest in 2023.

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