Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, a coalition of over 70 labour and civil society organisations, has asked the Nigerian Government to make full disclosure of all loans it has obtained.
ASCAB in a statement by Femi Falana, its Chairman, Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, and Quadri Olaleye, President of Trade Union Congress, said it would challenge the government in court if the disclosure was not made.
The coalition also asked the National Assembly to reveal the terms and conditions of all external loans.
It said the huge debt being incurred for the country had the potential of stifling the prospect of economic liberation and political freedom of the people.
The group said within one year the National Assembly had approved a total of $28bn for President Muhammadu Buhari with no commensurate improvement in the quality of lives of many Nigerians.
It lamented that Nigeria’s debt profile, which was N12.118trn as at May 2015, has leapt to N27.401trn in 2019, representing more than 100 per cent debt increase.
The statement reads, “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.
“Why 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.
“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 nor their keen understanding of the terms.”
ASCAB further stated that the National Assembly appears desperate to pull the wool over the face of Nigerians by covering up its tracks regarding the clause in the Chinese loan.
It added, “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.
“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.
“The loans taken by Nigeria from China raised 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 at March 31, 2020, was $3.121 billion, an indication that the Chinese loan is some 3.94% of Nigeria’s total public debt of $79.303 as at March 31, 2020, while external sources of funds, loans from China accounted for 11.28% of the external debt profile of $27.67 at the same date.
“The loans were obtained with interest rates of 2.5% per annum, to be paid in 20 years with a moratorium of seven years.”