Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) on Thursday called for audit of various external loans obtained by Federal and State Governments in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Breakdown of the loans obtained between 2016 and 2017 include: $575 million from World Bank for ‘reconstruction and rehabilitation of North East’; $2.3 billion China EXIM Bank and World Bank for railway project; $5.8 billion for ‘construction of standard guage lines for Lagos-Ibadan, Kano-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Calabar’; $1.3 billion World Bank/KfW Development Bank, ADB/FDA for establishment of Development Bank of Nigeria; $3.5 billion World Bank/AfDB for ‘filling the gaps in budget’; $3 billion Euro bond for ‘refinancing maturing domestic debt; $2.5 billion from “unnamed source” for ‘implementation of external borrowing plan’; N100 billion Sukuk bond for ‘reconstruction and rehabilitation of 25 arterial roads’ as well as N145 billion bond for ‘financing budget deficit’.
Total sum of $9,166,019,345.91 was allegedly obtained in 2014 while $9.3 billion was allegedly obtained in 2012 for powers education, health, agriculture by federal government agencies, FCT Administration for Abuja Light Rail project, among others from various development partners.
Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor, Head Social Action’s National Advocacy, who gave the charge in Abuja, during a press briefing on Nigeria’s debt profile and management, urged National Assembly to demonstrate sufficient political will to launch thorough investigation into the utilization of the external loans with the view to save generations unborn from another debt burden.
Bellonwu-Okafor who frowned at the development called on the Nigeria’s Parliament to show leadership and place moratorium on further borrowing by the Country and order immediate investigation into the usage of the past borrowings. The report of the investigation should be made available to the public.
“If it becomes absolutely necessary to borrow, details of the project to be executed with the borrowed fund be made public. The precise amount, interest rate and period of repayment should be published alongside in compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
“Monitoring/Progress reports of projects for which money was borrowed should be made available to the public regularly as stipulated by law.
“Special audit of project implementations be carried out by the Debt Management Office in conjunction with the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and Civil Societies and findings made known to the Nigerian public who bear the burden of debt,” she said.
While noting that the past administration did not display much responsibility as regards to borrowing, Bellonwu-Okafor alleged that the “present administration simply made a bad situation worse; within a space of two years, the nation’s debt profile shot up by an alarming 58% with no signs of relenting (going by the frequency and volume of loan requests going to the National Assembly).
“Borrowing heavily and consistently over the years while refusing to hinge debt sustainability on realistic principles of revenue generation capacities of an economy instead of a mere academic ruse of debt to GDP ratio and add it to unbridled sleaze and mis-management, problems naturally set in; Nigeria has consistently for the past ears now operated a deficit budget even as it devotes a painful chunk of budgetary allocation to debt servicing for projects or services the citizens hardly ever enjoyed. And so while Nigerians bemoan poor budgetary performance year after year, our creditors simply smile to the bank. A look at the figures tells this painful story.
“Let me draw your attention to a looming danger facing us all as citizens of this Country; as if the situation in which we are was not already bad enough, let me inform you that government has initiated moves seeking to amend the laws to enable it formally borrow for Recurrent Expenditure; If allowed to scale through, this would simply be the beginning of the END, I don’t need to bore you with implications of this move.
“We have thus urgently summoned you to once again bring to your attention the situation the Country is in with Debt and its Management and the ominous danger looming over the Country especially its economic health.
“The story of Nigeria and debt is well known I believe to all of you and the experience of hardship and near economic strangulation in the hands of committee of Creditors (Paris Club etc) including the World bank and the IMF in the form of austerity measures etc is still too fresh in our memories as Nigerians for us to go to sleep.
“These Monetary bodies including the IMF which are characteristically reticent especially in matters like this have come out openly to admonish the government to refrain from further borrowing stating clearly that the nation’s economy was not doing well enough to support such level of debt acquisitions and consequent debt servicing. We note that rather than the accumulated debts translating to real growth and development for the nation and by extension to better condition of living for the teaming population, it has continued to remain a burden as monies that could have been used to finance capital projects that would benefit the future generation are used to service existing debts,” the convener of the briefing said.
Bellonwu-Okafor who hailed from Ogoniland neighborhood, argued that the Opobo-Bonny bridge has been a drain pipe, adding that three previous administrations and the incumbent administration in River State continued to make budgetary provisions for the project without commensurate result.
Recall that the Opobo-Bonny bridge was part of the projects enlisted in the $5.5 billion external borrowing plan that the Presidency sent to the National Assembly for approval last week.
While responding to questions, Botti Isaac, Social Action’s Programme Officer, who noted that the external loan if not properly utilized cannot revamp the Nigerian economy.
He added that Nigeria was faced with forex challenge over the past few years as a result of dearth of manufacturing and real sector, as well as overdependence on oil revenue.
In the bid to avert future crisis, he urged Federal Government to boost non-oil sector and invest in critical capital projects across the country.
Isaac also emphasized the need for National Assembly to ensure appropriation of the recovered looted funds to avert diversion.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja