The silence of lawmakers over the trillion-naira loan granted to the federal government by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN under the suspended Godwin Emefiele has raised questions about the National Assembly’s independence and commitment to oversight functions.
Legal experts have blamed the National Assembly for its inability to moderate the excesses of the executive, saying the legislative arm has allowed itself to become the “rubber stamp” for the presidency amid rising economic challenges.
They decry how the Ninth National Assembly did a great disservice to Nigerians by not ensuring the independence of the legislature, as well as failing to perform the checks and balances responsibility on the executive arm of government, most especially the apex bank loan to the federal government.
The pundits insisted that the cordial relationship between the legislature and the executive has not helped the country, but only served the interest of the legislature.
“Today, it is a shame that whenever the president coughs, the National Assembly shakes. All the CBN loans to the federal government went ahead without the National Assembly blinking an eye,” Ola Alokolaro, partner, Advocaat Law Practice, said.
Section 8 of the CBN Act of 2007 gives the National Assembly oversight powers over the CBN.
According to section 8 subsection 4 of the CBN Act, the National Assembly is expected to get semi-annual updates on “efforts, activities, and plans of the CBN with monetary policy, economic development and prospects for the future.”
Data from CBN showed the Federal Government got ways and means advances of N6.2 trillion, bringing the total debt to CBN to N23.3 trillion at the end of 2022.
Last May, the Senate approved the request of then President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the N22.7 trillion loans borrowed by the Federal Government from the CBN through Ways and Means Advances.
“If the central bank keeps financing the government deficit through ways and means advances, it is not healthy for the economy. It is worrying because it adds to the debt stock, which is rising,” Magnus Ocheme, an Abuja-based political analyst, said.
Last month, Senate President Godswill Akpabio highlighted the need for the National Assembly to revisit the legislation behind the CBN.
“I think this is food for thought for distinguished senators, and that means we must revisit the act that set up the CBN because most of the problems we are seeing cannot be answered by him but he cannot stand here and condemn the very institution to which he belongs,” he said while addressing members of the Senate.
“But he has at least hinted (to) us that it is not every decision that he agreed with, or the other deputy governors agreed with. So, we probably would not have been where we are now if indeed, we had proper oversight and monitoring of the CBN by the act itself.”