This Day (Lagos)

25 August 2014

Nigeria: Labour Cautions Govt Over Rising Debt Profile

Worried by the country's rising debt profile, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has cautioned the Federal Government to check its resort to foreign loans before the future of Nigeria is once again mortgaged to foreign creditors. The Director-General of the DMO, Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, had put the country's domestic and foreign debt at $66 billion dollars (over N10 trillion), the external component being $9.38 billion.

Reacting to the huge debt profile, TUC, in a statement issued in Lagos at the weekend expressed worry that while Nigeria celebrated with fanfare the external debt exit in 2005 under the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo, by December 2010, the external debt portfolio had climbed to $4.78 billion.

The statement signed by TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, noted that the external debt profile has risen by about $5 billion representing a 100 percent increase in less than four years.

"This is very unfortunate moreso when the impact of the foreign loans are not being positively felt by the generality of the citizens. Nobody should be carried away by the argument that the country's debt stock is still less than 26 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the so-called international standard. The fact of the matter is that the country went through hell when its debt stock was about $35 billion. We should therefore, be concerned that we are going back to where we were before," the union said.

Although the DMO had explained that part of the loan was injected into the power sector, but the labour body emphassied that there is nothing on ground to show that electricity supply has improved.

"As at May 2014, the Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo stated that Nigeria is generating 3,800mw for about 170 million population, whereas experts estimate that Lagos State alone needs about 15,000mw," the union stated.

The TUC President also faulted the claim by the DG of the DMO that part of the loan was also used to finance roads including Abuja International Airport Road that has not been completed for years.

He urged the trade union movement, civil society groups, and other well-meaning Nigerians to rise up and ensure that the Federal Government stops further foreign borrowing forthwith.

"We also demand that the federal government should curtail unnecessary expenditure, prune down the obscene emoluments of political office holders, and block other leakages through which billions of naira are looted from the Treasuries leaving virtually nothing for capital development.

"We believe that if the enormous resources of the country are properly harnessed and prudently managed, there is more than enough wealth in Nigeria to go round and also build the type of societies we have in Europe, America, Asia, and even some African countries," the union added

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