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Friday, June 21, 2024

Lawyers, others oppose Buhari’s last minute N539bn judgement debts request 

Lawyers, others oppose Buhari’s last minute N539bn judgement debts request 

President Muhammadu Buhari has five days to leave office as Nigeria’s president, but he is seeking the Senate’s approval to pay judgement debts owed by the government in the sum of $566,754,584.31, £98,526,012.00 and N226, 281,801,881.64.

Buhari also asked his ministers to remain in office up till the last minute of his administration, which expires on midnight of May 28.

Buhari’s request for approval to pay $556m, £98m and N226bn judgement debts was contained in a letter read on Wednesday by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

The president said the judgement debts would be settled through the issuance of promissory notes.

The letter reads in part: “The Distinguished Senate President may wish to be informed that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting of March 29, 2023 approved the liquidations of top priority judgement debts and general judgement debts owed by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) through the issuance of promissory notes.

“The judgement debts are to be settled through the issuance of promissory notes, which will then be redeemed over time through provisions in the budgets of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Debt securities have been issued for the settlement of the judgement debts and approval of the National Assembly is required for this purpose.

“In view of the foregoing, I wish to request the Senate to kindly consider and approve through its resolution the settlement of the top priority judgement debts and general judgement debts incurred by federal MDAs in the sum of USD566,754,584.31, £98,526,012.00 and N226,281,801,881.64 through the issuance of promissory notes.

“The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning shall provide any information that may be required by the Senate for the consideration of this request.”

The president and his ministers have in the last couple of weeks been taking serious decisions, approvals, and appointments, with government officials saying they have the right to do whatever they believe are within the law.

But some experts argued that while it is true that government must continue, certain decisions like last minute award of contracts, borrowings or appointments ought to have been left for the incoming government.

Ozekhome opposes Buhari’s $800m loan request

Reacting to the development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome, described President Buhari’s move as a last-minute rush to eat up the remnants of a strangulated economy.

The learned silk likened the president’s actions to show of ephemerality of power.

Ozekhome said: “The government erroneously thought 8 years was a Millennium.  Now that the time has come for them to leave by constitutional effluxion of time, they are rushing to sell Nigeria.

“Why now for a government that has been in power for 8 years?

“Who verified these debts? How were they prioritised above others? Of course, you can be very sure that our unquestioning “yes sir” and “Mr-take-a-bow” Senate will approve it without qualms; without questions; without interrogation.

“While the Debt Management Office (DMO) estimates Nigeria’s debt to be N25 trillion or $103.11 billion as at December 2022, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) said Nigeria’s debt profile could hit N77 trillion in June, 2023.

“This government that has left Nigeria bleeding on every index of governance is adding salt onto injury by giving Nigerians this final farewell slap. It’s sad for Nigeria.”

Gani Arobo faults Buhari’s $800m loan request

Also baring his mind, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Gani Arobo, faulted the letter, saying it is possible that there may not be thoroughness in the process leading to final approvals.

Arguing further, Arobo noted that persons with ulterior motive may smuggle in propositions that do not pass through intense scrutiny.

Arobo added: “What is even more worrisome is that this government is transiting to another APC government. It would have been expected that such work left undone will be left to them to work out modalities since government is a continuum.

“Note that the amount being proposed is in hundreds of billions. So, while it may not be said to be an illegality, it certainly does not give good optics.

“In the American system, which mirrors our own democratic process, this government has become lame-duck. During the lame-duck session, the Executive does not pursue new policies, initiate new projects or take on huge consequential obligations.

“All the President does is issue clemency, approve pardons and humanise his administration. These are conventions practiced worldwide which this action seems to ignore.”

Babalola slams Buhari’s $800m loan request

In a related development, a legal icon and founder, Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, has faulted President Buhari’s request, seeking National Assembly’s approval for a fresh $800 million loan to finance the National Social Safety Network Programme (NSSNP).

The silk spoke Wednesday at the Aare Afe Babalola 12th Annual Public Lecture organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ado Ekiti branch and held at the ABUAD campus.

The ABUAD founder expressed shock that Buhari could seek a fresh loan in a country with “undeclared bankruptcy.”

“I do not expect the parliament to accede to that request. How can you be an undeclared bankrupt country and yet be borrowing more money? I do not think that any right thinking person will give us a loan with trillions of Naira debt. I believe and sincerely hope that the National Assembly will not approve it.

“The type of elections being held in the country cannot produce the right people. If we had the right people in the National Assembly they would have instantly turned down the request of President Buhari to borrow $800 million. That is why I am an advocate of a new constitution and I want you (NBA) to join me in that crusade,” Babalola said.

Buhari asks ministers to work till May 29

President Buhari at the valedictory Federal Executive Council session at the State House Council Chamber also directed his ministers to tidy up their work and avoid last-minute rush that could compromise the good deeds they had done over the years.

He directed them to work till May 29.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told reporters after the valedictory council meeting that the FEC was “still very much alive” as all ministers had been directed by President Muhammadu Buhari to return to their office and continue with their duties.

Mohammed said “The fake news that is circulating that the Federal Executive Council has been dissolved is not true. It’s not been dissolved, we have all been directed to go back to our offices and I’m sure that we’re going to work up till 29th of May. So please ignore the fake news.”

In his remarks yesterday at the valedictory FEC session held at the State House Council Chamber, Buhari told his cabinet members that it was pleasurable working with them.

He said: “In the course of our years together, ranging from our newest addition to the oldest members of the team for the past seven and half years, we have differed on many issues.

“I urge that we understand that those positions were for the collective good, and no one should keep grievances, or carry these differences forward.

“For those of us that will not directly be in government, I know that I am one of such, I ask that we continue to provide our support, in whatever way we can, if called upon by our great party, All Progressives Congress (APC) that gave us the platform to stand and we must continue to support it in every way we can,’’ he said.

Buhari, in a statement later by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, appreciated the ministers for working closely together, despite many odds and challenges, and sustaining the synergy that translated into many achievements.

“I am proud to say we gave our best,’’ he added.

He attributed all the good work and goodwill received by the administration to God’s intervention, adding, “I also thank God for the strength and for keeping us together.

“I look forward to a great many of you, disproving that Daura has not become too distant because I am no longer Mr President.

“I will also be happy to do the many things that I have not been able to since May 29th, 2015, one of such is my favourite pastime of taking care of my cattle.

“I wish all of us the best and hope to hear good news whenever any of our names are mentioned. Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria,’’ he stated.

Buhari, who also appreciated members of staff of the State House, thanked all the ministers for their steadfastness in pursuing the goals of the administration.

The president urged support for the incoming President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even from outside the government.

The information minister, who had earlier spoken on the valedictory session and preparations for Tinubu’s inauguration, said: “During that meeting, we adopted minutes of the two extraordinary FEC meetings and at the same time, opportunity was given to every minister to make his own farewell speech.

“It’s instructive to note that each and every minister present today, and I’m not aware of any who was absent, was given between two to five minutes to make his or her own valedictory speech and I think largely everybody commended Mr. President and thanked the president for the opportunity to serve the country at this level.

“Many also took the opportunity to reel out what his or her own ministry or department had achieved over the last eight years. Of course, you know, there are about three classes or categories of ministers; there are ministers that came in 2015 and us who were retained till 2023. There’re ministers that came in 2019 and have been there till 2023 and there are the last batch of ministers that came in about nine months ago.

“So, everybody made his or her own valedictory speech, depending on how long he or she had been occupying the position. But generally, I think it was just a glorious moment for all the ministers to thank the president, thank their colleagues and also give gratitude to God, that a journey that started in 2015 is ending very well in 2023.

“I think everybody, including the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of Service, the Vice President, all made their valedictory speeches and then the President responded, and I think largely he thanked all of us for our contributions and prayed for us in our next endeavour.

“He (president) reiterated the fact that we should all go back to our offices so that we can carry out the assignments and tasks assigned to us in respect of the transition program. For instance, tomorrow (today), we’ll all have to be present at the conferment of the national honours on both the President-elect and the Vice President-elect and at that occasion, I think the handing-over instrument will also be given to the in-coming President. That’s Thursday.

“On Friday, of course, there will be prayers. On Saturday, there’ll be a public lecture. On Sunday, there will be church service and then on Monday, there will be the inauguration proper at the Eagle Square, and then, there will be dinner in the evening, largely for visiting heads of states and those who have been invited to the dinner. So, governance continues until May 29.”


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Lawyers, others oppose Buhari’s last minute N539bn judgement debts request



Lawyers, others oppose Buhari’s last minute N539bn judgement debts request

Lawyers, others oppose Buhari’s last minute N539bn judgement debts request

Lawyers, others oppose Buhari’s last minute N539bn judgement debts request

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