The Nigerian Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, has disclosed how 20 million Nigerians could lose their jobs if COVID-19 pandemic persists.
Lawan, however, said that international politics is frustrating Nigeria’s efforts to acquire sophisticated weapons for the Armed Forces to fight insecurity which is already contributing to unemployment in the country.
The Senate President, while addressing the journalists in Abuja at the weekend ahead of the first anniversary of the Ninth Senate, said whenever Nigerian government made requests to buy security equipment from some foreign countries, it would take a longer time than expected before they were granted.
He said: ‘’To some extent, we’re suffering from international politics. I know that in our efforts to try to buy spare parts for their jets, maybe write to a certain foreign government and it’ll take six to nine months; while another country will write to the same government and maybe get it in one or two months.
“So, something is not right, but that’s saying that it’s now one of our challenges that we’ll continue to engage with countries that we feel don’t understand what we’re doing here.’’
Describing Nigeria’s security system as overstretched, he said more resources were needed to tackle the acute insecurity.
“The resources available to the security office are inadequate. Government is doing a lot to get more resources in terms of equipments and machinery,” he said. He stressed the need for mutual respect and cooperation between the executive and the legislature, saying the gap between them “that’ll not be resolved or narrowed easily has created so much loss to the country. It’s our challenge.”
He said both arms of government had constituted a special joint committee to look at executive bills that might cause friction between them. On the criticisms trailing the recent loans approved by the legislature for the executive, Lawan said the borrowings were approved to ensure that works on critical infrastructure, which the federal government has no money to finance, continue without delay.
He said, ‘’We have a shortfall of almost $14.2bn funding gap for 2020 budget and with COVID-19 came so many negative things that visited adverse outcomes on our people.
“We didn’t make hay while the sun shone. We didn’t diversify the economy or invest in the real sectors of the economy.
“Now, we’ve come to a point where we have to address the infrastructural gap that we have but the resources are so low.
“Crude oil at one point was selling for 10, 11 dollars per barrel when this pandemic started around March.
“We’ve very significant projects that we need to put in place, like the second Niger bridge, Mambila hydropower, East-West road, Lagos – Kano rail line etc, but we don’t have the money.
“If you don’t have the resources and still need these projects, would you, because you want to run away from taking a loan, say let me abandon all these projects.
“For us in the National Assembly, we are conscious of the fact that this economy, as affected by the pandemic, if it persists you could lose over 20 million jobs in this country.
“The economy will go into a serious recession. So you need to have the resources to invest so that the economy doesn’t go into recession and ensure that people don’t lose their jobs.
“So, we feel we should grant the request, but we needed to scrutinize everything – the conditions, the projects – which we did.
“We approved the loans to ensure that our infrastructural development continues.’’