By Prisca Sam-Duru
A diaspora NGO, under the aegis, Transforming Uplifting and Reforming Nigeria (TURN), which is committed to the socio-economic well-being of Nigeria, has expressed concern about the indebtedness of the country to the People’s Republic of China, condemning the reported enslaving terms of conditions which Nigeria agreed to in order to secure the loans.
In a statement signed by the President of TURN, Dr AG Ahmed, the group stated that “Nigeria’s external debt loan stands at $31.98 billion (Debt Management Office, DMO, September 30, 2020), most of which are owed to well-known international creditor agencies with which Nigeria has had a long history of dealing. In contrast, the bilateral loans which are owed to individual countries are of concern, and none is as worrisome as the unprecedented yet increasing sum of money owed to China which now stands at $3.3 billion or 80.1% of Nigeria’s bilateral debt load of $4.1 billion.”
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It further stated that while the IMF has warned Nigeria of her increasing indebtedness to China, TURN’s evaluation of Chinese “investments” in Nigeria represents a sordid and unsustainable state of affairs that can in the end only hurt the Nigerian people, adding that “All loans from China are claimed to be on concessional terms according to the DMO.
However, details of the loans are shrouded in secrecy and the demands of Nigeria’s Fiscal Responsibility Act, (FRA) for concessional loans have not been transparently met. The risks associated with the Chinese loans constitute clear, present and future danger despite the relatively small proportion of the loans to Nigeria’s overall debt”.
The group posited that there is the need for all well-meaning Nigerians to hold the government to account and demand answers since “Numerous questions and concerns surrounding these loans have remained unanswered”, regretting that, “The patriotic efforts of the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) including legal recourse have not elicited even a polite acknowledgement from the government”.
It also demanded that government provide answers rather than hide details of the $460 million loan used to fund the Abuja CCTV, a project which it said, has spectacularly failed, adding that “To the detriment of Nigeria, these loans are used for projects that end up promoting economic activities in China as the Chinese companies employ mostly Chinese citizens, with money that will have to be paid back by Nigeria. The loans minimally translate to Nigeria’s benefit as the control of all related activities is not in the hands of Nigerians. These are examples of direct foreign “investments” that negatively contribute to the Gross Domestic product as the valuable economic resources are promptly evacuated from Nigeria by foreigners. These trends need to be reversed. TURN would like to see concrete actions and a government white paper issued to address the concerns outlined above”.
“TURN believes that loans taken by the government should not mortgage the future of the citizens or that of the unborn generation and therefore, requests that the terms and conditions of all loans be made publicly available and for the government to commit to the renegotiation of the terms and conditions that are inimical to Nigeria’s socio-economic progress.
“We ask that the Nigerian government take the necessary precautions to avoid debilitating and harrowing conditions that the citizens may face with a creditor that might endanger our sovereignty. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, TURN demands that the government reassures Nigerians that none of our national assets will be at risk in the case of a default”, Dr Ahmed concluded in the statement.
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