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Fresh $5.5bn loan: SERAP to Buhari: Stop the borrowing spree, demands spending details

Don't fund opulent lifestyles of ex-governors on life pensions, govt officials 

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In relentless pursuit of transparent and accountable governance, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to stop taking more loans and increasing Nigeria’s debts burden to fund the opulent lifestyles of former state governors receiving life pensions and those in power.
Rather, SERAP urged the government to cut the costs of governance so that Nigerians will have access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.
It, however, demanded that Buhari should use the opportunity of the 5th anniversary of his government to provide spending details of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015, including details and locations of projects on which the loans have been spent.
“Rather than taking more loans and increasing Nigeria’s debts burden to fund the opulent lifestyles of former state governors receiving life pensions, we urge you to cut the costs of governance, including by obeying the  judgment ordering your government to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws, and to recover pensions collected by former governors.

“We express concerns about the massive and growing national debts, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply,” SERAP said.

SERAP had sent a Freedom of Information request to President Buhari requesting him to put a halt to the borrowings and be more transparent in the use of the funds.
Persecondnews recalls that
Buhari had last week sought the National Assembly’s approval for a fresh loan of $5.513bn, reportedly to fund the 2020 budget deficit, critical projects, and support some states.

The organisation is also urging Buhari to set up an independent audit of all loans to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption and to publish spending details of loans obtained by successive administrations since 1999, list of countries and bodies that have given the loans, and specific repayment conditions.
In the FoI request dated 30 May, 2020 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization states: expressed: “While governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay these loans.
“Opacity in the spending of loans would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.

SERAP

“Transparency would ensure that the loans are not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that these loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.

 

“While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive.

“Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape or form.”

SERAP noted that any unresolved allegations of mismanagement, bribery and corruption in the use of loans would continue to deprive millions of Nigerians access to basic public goods and services, and leave the government without the resources to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.

“We urge you to ensure that those suspected to be responsible for any mismanagement and corruption are promptly referred to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for further investigation, and where there is relevant admissible evidence, prosecution.

“Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by your government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption.

“It would also help to avoid a morally repugnant result of visiting the sins of corrupt governments and officials on innocent Nigerians.

“We also urge you to promptly instruct Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since the assumption of office in May 2015,” SERAP said.

In the FoI request copied to Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; and Ms Patience Oniha, Director-General of the Debt Management Office, SERAP is urging Buhari to disclose details of the spending of loans, specific details of projects and locations of the projects as well as the conditions of the projects.

It wants total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by the government, including the interest rate, the details of debts inherited from the previous administrations, and details of refinancing of any such loans, as well as any strategy put together on borrowing decisions, and to promote sustainable borrowing.

In addition, SERAP demands whether any public officials solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans

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