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Furore over Buhari’s unfriendly loan pact with China

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• PDP alleges mortgaging of nation’s sovereignty
• Urges NASS to review all loan agreements
• Atiku asks president, APC to apologise
• SERAP demands details of borrowings since 2015

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, All Progressives Congress (APC) to tender unreserved apology to Nigerians for allegedly ceding the nation’s sovereignty to another country through harsh loan agreement with China.

In a statement signed by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku also condemned the rapidly rising national debt, particularly when it is not being utilized for serious productive ventures.

“Nigeria had a total foreign debt stock of $7.02 billion on May 29, 2015. Today, our foreign debt is $23 billion and rapidly rising. Debt, by itself, is not a bad thing. But debt budgeted for such unproductive ventures like the proposed $500 million upgrade of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and other sundry bogus contracts, is debt that leads to death,” he stated.

According to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in 2019, “to trade Nigeria’s sovereignty for this type of profligacy is the height of irresponsibility!”.

Atiku lamented that the government rejected his earlier advice for a more robust engagement of the private sector and promotion of foreign direct investment as sustainable alternatives through which government could fund infrastructure development programme.

“But on the contrary, the Nigerian government under the banner of the APC threaded the direction of looking for cheap foreign loans in exchange for the sovereignty for Nigeria.

“The government of the day and the APC must apologize to Nigerians and make an admittance of guilt for taking the country through the throes of subjugation to another country.

“Regrettably, just last week, a cabinet minister confirmed our fears. Now, we all are aware that Nigeria’s sovereignty may have been traded for foreign loans and God forbids our inability to service those loans, the lender country would take ownership of choice infrastructure on the Nigerian soil. No negotiation could be weaker than that,”Atiku further lamented.

In a separate statement yesterday, PDP said that the revelation of obnoxious clauses in the agreements entered by the APC administration with their Chinese lenders in the $500 million loan, had vindicated its stand that the government had been secretly mortgaging the sovereignty of the nation to benefit its selfish leaders.

The opposition party called on the National Assembly to review all foreign loan agreements entered into by the APC administration and take further urgent steps to retrieve Nigeria from the international auction.

PDP alleged that the mortgaging of the nation’s sovereignty to foreign lenders, including the exposed $500 million loan from China, had been with the active connivance of the APC as a party, even when such is against national interest.

In the statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP rejected the attempts by the Buhari administration to justify what the party called reprehensible pawning of our sovereignty to a foreign interest.

The opposition recalled that it had on May 28, 2020 alerted the country that the Buhari administration and the APC had placed the nation on the international auction market with accumulation of foreign loans under nebulous terms.

The PDP declared that “the APC agenda offends our corporate existence as a nation and grossly violates the fundamentals of our constitution as a self-governing state, which grant no space for any form of takeover of any of our national interests by foreigners, under any condition whatsoever.”

It described as lamentable the attitude of government officials, including the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi who instead of taking steps to reassure Nigerians, was referring to ceding of control and ownership of assets in the event of default, further raising questions regarding the reliability of the current administration.

Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Federal High Court, Abuja to order President Buhari to publish details of loans obtained by the government since May 29, 2015.

Essentially, SERAP wants the president to publish the interest rate, the total amount of debts so far incurred by this administration as well as details of the projects on which the loans have been spent.

Respondents in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ms Zainab Ahmed and the Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Ms. Patience Oniha.

In the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, the group is also seeking an order of mandamus to direct Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans.

SERAP also wants “the publication of the specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated May 30, 2020 to President Buhari, expressing “concerns that 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.”

In a related development, the Manager, Governance Programme, Actionaid Nigeria, Celestine Okwudili has expressed worry over alleged plan by the Federal Government plan to borrow additional N4.28 trillion to fund the 2021 budget.

He said that with the new borrowing, the national debt would hit N33trn before the end of the 3rd quarter of 2020.

In a statement, yesterday, Okwudili said: “Our infrastructures are deteriorating rapidly, more than 82 million Nigerians are under extreme poverty, living from hand to mouth and inequality is expanding.

“This is happening in a country where defence has taken the greater chunks of our national budgets, with N238billion released out of the N316billion allocated to the sector for 2018/19. This represents about 75 per cent of these total allocations over the period. At the same time, corruption is getting out of proportions, as funds meant for public goods are siphoned through budget allocations.”

According to him, “embezzlement cases are celebrated in the media, drawing public attentions nationally and internally, but unfortunately, that is the end of such cases because investigative reports are never made public or implemented, so who is fooling who? In such a scenario, the political class will continue to feed fat at the detriment of poor Nigerians.”


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