(Press Statement) The National Assembly on Wednesday 26th April 2017, received a request from the President for an approval to borrow the sum of approximately $7 billion for what he said was “to fund infrastructural objectives across the country and combat polio outbreak in the North-East”.
This latest request to borrow such enormous sum of money is not only disheartening as it signals the increase of the weight of debt burden being borne by ordinary Nigerians but also a great dis-service to the country’s future generation to whom the nation is bequeathing a legacy of debt.
Within the last two years, the country’s debt profile has risen by an alarming 45% from N12.6 trillion as at April, 2015 to 17.3 trillion in December 2016. This request which is the largest singular borrowing by any government in the country, if approved, will shoot up the nation’s debt stock to a staggering N19.5 trillion or $57.3 billion
According to the Head of the National Advocacy Centre of Social Action, Abuja, Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor, “this wanton recourse to borrowing is deplorable. It negates the very tenets to which this administration committed prior to its election which was amongst others, keeping the Country away from debt. Sadly, instead of taking steps to reduce the nation’s indebtedness, it has rather embarked on frequent unsustainable borrowings from any available source and under different guise almost none of which Nigerians can point to.
To make matters worse, the terms and conditions of these loans are kept tightly away from the public. As the saying goes, ‘there is no free launch’ and the institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank (to which the government is applying to borrow), have a well-known history of anti-masses loan conditionality and policies that enslave nations. These experiences should guide Nigeria to be wary and remain on the path of prudence” she said.
As it stands today, debt servicing runs almost neck to neck with capital appropriation in the nation’s budget, standing at 22% against 30% earmarked as capital allocation in 2016 budget to supposedly provide social infrastructure and services for a country of over 170 million people. It is clear that debt servicing is compromising national development.
This loan request must be rejected. And it is in the good interest of the country and its citizens to do so. The countless several past loans obtained for similar purposes were variously looted and unaccounted for till date. Fate has entrusted it on the shoulders of National Assembly members to see to it that this level of debt burden is not yoked upon the neck of Nigerians and its innocent future generations. The National Assembly Committees on Aids, Loans and Foreign Debts should as a matter of strong necessity subject this request to a public hearing in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, to collate the views and opinions of Nigerians on it in order to be more properly guided in line with the wishes and aspirations of the people.
It should also not sweep the issue of past failed loans under the carpet but conduct an audit of these loans in order to get to the root of the circumstances around their non-performance.
Going by all the government has been telling us, the country’s revenue has shored up via a number of means including increased oil output and sales, Treasury Single Account TSA, plugging of leakages, recovered loot etc, one expected that these funds would be channeled to providing the needed social welfare, infrastructure and services for Nigerians instead of embarking on a borrowing spree and at the end of its tenure, bequeath the debt burden to generations of Nigerians.