Daily Champion (Lagos)

4 July 2005

Nigeria: Debt Relief Unnecessary - Okogie

Lagos — CATHOLIC Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie has described the debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club of creditors as unnecessary, adding that proceeds arising from the relief will enrich those at the helm of affairs in the country.

He took this position in an interview with Daily Champion weekend during his Canonical visit to Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Isolo, Lagos, just as he warned Nigerian leaders to curtail their greed "otherwise, they will be heading towards destruction."

Reacting to the $18 billion or 60 per cent debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club, Cardinal Okogie said "the government is not sincere with the populace because the clauses embedded in the debt relief were not disclosed.

"Paris Club can not give 60 per cent debt relief just like that. There must be certain conditions tied to it," the Bishop added.

According to him, bribery and corruption have eaten deep into the nation's fabric, pointing out that the only way the debt relief was got would be through lobby.

Okogie demanded to know the minute details and agreements linked with the alleged lobbying.

Cardinal Okogie, who said the surplus oil revenue has not been accounted for, believed that "the so-called debt relief would not hold anything positive for the economy."

"How are they going to spend the 60 per cent debt relief and what have they done with surplus oil revenue?

"Nigerians do not ask questions about how their money is managed. It is a pity that Nigerians don't ask questions. They allow people to deceive them," he further stated.

Cardinal Okogie called on the government to take serious the statement made by the United States of America (USA) that Nigeria will disintegrate in 15 years, rather than condemning it, pointing out that they should take stock of what is happening in the country.

He advised government officials to repent and amend their ways otherwise they will face the wrath of God.

"God is very merciful. He gives each of us time and chance to amend, if you don't amend, he takes you off."

He said the acquisitive nature of the country's leaders had made them not only to perpetuate themselves in office, but also to hand over leadership to their children.

The respected clergyman said that if he were not a priest, he would have joined other Nigerians leaving the country in search of greener pasture outside because of the prevailing bad governance and economy.

"If I am not what I am, I would have left the country like others," he said.

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