By Bankole Wright
Senate President Bukola Saraki has said Nigerians should not be apprehensive whether the Presidency will sign the 2017 budget or not.
In an interview with journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Sunday, Saraki said he was confident the Presidency will sign the budget very soon.
He said, “There was a comment I read online where the Presidency had said it did not have an intention not to sign. I do not think that (not signing the budget) will happen; I doubt very much.
“Nigerians should not be concerned about that; I am pretty sure that the Executive will sign the bill and we will begin to implement the budget. I am confident that the Executive will sign it very soon. There should be no anxiety there.”
He added that lawmakers will invite the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks to discuss high interest in loans given to Nigerians.
“They (banks) will tell you that they are doing business but in doing business, there must be social responsibility. We must be able to sit down and look at ourselves eyeball to eyeball, and we intend to do that; and I can promise Nigerians that we can find a solution. Hopefully with the stability in the forex market, we will now begin to address the high interest rate,” he said.
“There is no business that can make money if it is trying to borrow at 28 or 29 per cent. It cannot work and if we cannot get the banks to lend to the real sector and they carry on their money to government instruments, there cannot be growth. So, we must tackle that. I can assure you that I will lead that challenge. We must sit down and discuss it.”
Saraki added, “They are in business to make money but we must look at what money is reasonable in this kind of environment. You may have to reduce that profitability to allow your country to grow. It is that balancing that we need, but in doing that, there must be some incentives. We may have to tell them, ‘Listen, we may have to limit how much you put in government security’.
“What do you do with that extra amount of money? It must go to the real sector. It must go to the business that produce made-in-Nigeria products. They may say that it is too risky to do that. In doing that, we must give them some assistance. This is the kind of negotiation we must make.”