The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged the Speaker of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, to reject President Muhammadu Buhari’s new request for borrow $ 4 billion and € 710 million until the publication of the expenditure details of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015 by the government.
President Buhari recently sought approval from the National Assembly to borrow $ 4,054,476,863 billion and € 710 million, due to “emerging needs”.
The request was contained in a letter dated August 24, 2021.
In an open letter dated September 18, 2021 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, lack of transparency and accountability in loan spending that were achieved, and the perceived reluctance or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to control apparently indiscriminate government borrowing.
SERAP said: “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt and use the country’s scarce resources for mind-boggling and crippling debt service payments rather than better access. poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights. “
According to SERAP, “the accumulation of excessive debts and the unsustainable debt service are incompatible with the government’s international obligations to use the maximum of the country’s available resources to progressively achieve the realization of economic and social rights and the access of Nigerians to basic public services ”.
The letter read in part: “The country’s public debt has multiplied with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. The government has made no serious attempt to reduce the cost of governance.
“The leadership of the National Assembly should stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to secure limits on national debt and deficits.”
“SERAP urges you to urgently propose a resolution and push for a constitutional amendment on the debt limit, with the aim of reducing national debt and deficits.
“This recommendation is fully in line with the constitutional oversight functions and spending powers of the National Assembly, as well as the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations.
He said indiscriminate borrowing has an effect on the full enjoyment of economic and social rights of Nigerians; and that spending a large portion of the country’s annual budget on debt servicing has limited the government’s ability to ensure poor and vulnerable Nigerians’ access to health care, education, clean water and other minimum human needs.
SERAP added, “If the National Assembly and its leadership fail to curb government borrowing and ensure transparency and accountability in public loan spending, SERAP will consider appropriate legal action to compel the government to National Assembly to fulfill its constitutional obligations.
“The National Assembly under your leadership has a constitutional responsibility to urgently address the country’s debt crisis, which is exacerbated by overspending on lavish allowances for senior officials, lack of transparency and accountability. , as well as the lack of political will to recover. billions of naira reported as missing or mismanaged by the Federation’s Office of the Auditor General.
“The National Assembly should prevent the government from borrowing behind the backs of the people. Lack of information on the details of the specific projects on which the loans are spent and on the terms of the loans creates incentives for corruption and limits the ability of citizens to monitor the legality and compliance of loans with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), as well as holding the authorities to account.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed 35 trillion naira. The government has also reportedly postponed the maturity of currently guaranteed loans to between 10 and 30 years. 11,679 trillion naira is said to be committed to servicing the debt, while only 8.31 trillion naira is said to have been spent on investment / development spending between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in government loan spending and reducing the cost of governance would address onerous debt service and improve the government’s ability to meet the country’s international obligations to use the debt. maximum resources available to ensure the enjoyment of basic services. economic and social rights, such as quality health care and education.
The letter was sent in copy to the chairmen of the public accounts committees of the National Assembly.