Falana-Led Coalition Demands Full Details Of FG Loans
A coalition led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has called on the Federal Government to make full public disclosure of all loans obtained by the country.
It has the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, and President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, as co-chairmen.
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Adewale Adeoye, the Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) said it would challenge the authorities in court if the disclosures were not made.
It also appealed to the National Assembly to reveal the terms and conditions of all external loans.
The coalition, which comprises labour and some 80 civil society groups, added that if the National Assembly fails, the Debt Management Office should publish the terms and conditions of all external loans or face legal fireworks.
It decried that Nigeria’s debt profile which was N12.118 trillion as of May 2015 has leaped to N27.401 trillion in 2019, representing more than 100 per cent debt increase.
The coalition said recent revelation at the National Assembly has confirmed the fact that the loans were taken without proper public scrutiny, claiming that a Committee of the House of Representatives was feigning ignorance of the terms and conditions attached to a particular loan agreement.
It stressed that the huge debt being incurred for Nigeria has the potential of stifling the prospect of economic liberation and political freedom of the people.
Apology To Nigerians
ASCAB stated that within one year, the National Assembly has approved a total of $28 billion for President Muhammadu Buhari with no commensurate improvement in the quality of lives of many Nigerians.
“Millions of Nigerians continue to face harsh economic difficulties, lacking access to basic needs, yet the debt profile of the country continues to increase.
“It is even more grievous that the government continues to take loans on behalf of the people without their consent, neither their keen understanding of the terms,” it said.
ASCAB also alleged that the National Assembly appeared desperate to pull the wool over the face of Nigerians by covering up its tracks regarding the clause in the Chinese loan.
“The opaque nature of the loans is against the principles of the Nigerian Constitution,” ASCAB said citing Section 21(1) of the Debt Management Office Establishment (ETC) Act, 2003 (DMO Act) which states that no external loan shall be approved or obtained by the Minister “unless its terms and conditions shall have been laid before the National Assembly and approved by its resolution.”
The group also cited Section 41 (1a) of the FRA which states that “Government at all tiers shall only borrow for capital expenditure and human development, provided that, such borrowing shall be on concessional terms with low interest rate and with a reasonable long amortisation period subject to the approval of the appropriate legislative body where necessary.”
The coalition insisted that the National Assembly has breached the provisions of section 21 (1) of the Debt Management Office Establishment (ETC) Act, 2003.
“Instead of grandstanding over the matter, the members of the National Assembly ought to apologise to the Nigerian people and proceed to scrutinise the terms and conditions of all other external loans,” ASCAB said.
The loans taken by Nigeria from China sparked a public outcry last week when a clause that was alleged to have compromised Nigeria’s sovereignty was discovered.
According to the Debt Management Office, the total value of loans taken by Nigeria from China as of March 31, 2020, was $3.121 billion – an indication that the Chinese loan was some 3.94 per cent of Nigeria’s total public debt of $79.303 billion as of March 31, 2020, while external sources of funds, loans from China accounted for 11.28 per cent of the external debt profile of $27.67 billion at the same date.
The loans were obtained with interest rates of 2.5 per cent per annum and to be paid in 20 years with a moratorium of seven years.
The coalition said it was important to ask whether Nigeria really needed the “jumbo loans” when sources of boosting public funds were either yet to be fully explored or completely ignored.
“The most fundamental issue is whether we really need these jumbo loans. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Nigeria directed the Federal Government to recover royalties that were not paid for 18 years by the multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria. The said royalties have been confirmed to be $62 billion,” the group said.
ASCAB listed some of the loans collected by the government to include the February 2018 Eurobond worth $2.5 billion loan, the September 2018 loan of $328 million, $5.3 billion from Chinese Export-Import Bank, $2.36 billion to finance aspects of the 2020 budget while another $5.513 billion was sought to finance the 2020 revised budget.
Level Of Poverty
The Senate had also approved N850 million and another $22.79 billion for President Buhari currently pending at the parliament.
ASCAB, therefore, warned the National Assembly to desist from approving loans for payment of the unapproved salaries of legislators and pension of former governors.
They insisted that such contravened Section 41 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which has restricted governments at all levels to “borrow for capital expenditure and human development”.
“The country’s level of poverty continues to increase with the skyrocketing loans obtained by the Federal Government.
“Poverty, extreme hunger, frivolous lifestyle of public office holders, continue to fuel violence and public disorder across the country.
“While the government has responded effectively to the needs of public officials including members of the National Assembly, the economic and social needs of the people remain a mirage,” the coalition said.