Nigeria: SERAP Asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila to Reject Buhari's Fresh $4bn, €710m Loan

20 September 2021

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to reject the fresh request by President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow $4 billion and €710 million until the publication of details of spending of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015 by the government."

President Buhari recently sought the approval of the assembly to borrow $4,054,476,863 billion and €710 million, on the grounds of "emerging needs." The request was contained in an August 24 letter.

In a September 18 open letter signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation expressed concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that had been obtained.

It stated that the government had reportedly committed N11.679 trillion into debt servicing, while only N8.31 trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.

The group said there was perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.

SERAP advised the National Assembly not to allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country's scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.

It stated that accumulation of excessive debts and unsustainable debt-servicing were inconsistent with the government's international obligations to use the country's maximum available resources to achieve progressively the realisation of economic and social rights, and access of Nigerians to basic public services.

The letter read in part, "The country's public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body's constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits."

"SERAP urges you to urgently propose a resolution and push for constitutional amendment on debt limit, with the intent of reducing national debt and deficits. This recommendation is entirely consistent with the constitutional oversight functions and spending powers of the National Assembly, and the country's international anti-corruption and human rights obligations."

"Indiscriminate borrowing has an effect on the full enjoyment of Nigerians' economic and social rights. Spending large portion of the country's yearly budget to service debts has limited the ability of the government to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to minimal health care, education, clean water, and other human needs."

SERAP warned that it might take a legal action if the National Assembly and its leadership failed to restrain government's borrowing and ensured transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans.

Copies of the letter were sent to the chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

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