By Chuks Okocha
Abuja — A former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has written to the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, requesting the National Assembly to reject any new loan request meant for “projects that are not viable.”
In the letter to Lawan, received on August 25, Atiku, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election, urged the federal lawmakers to also halt approval for loans that are not income-generating or production-based.
He said Nigeria risked insolvency if it continued to borrow money, adding that previous loans were spent on non-viable projects.
According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s total public debt as of March 2020 stood at $79.3 billion out of which external debt was $27.6 billion.
In a Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated August 3, 2020, Falana & Falana Chambers, the law firm of human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had asked the DMO to provide information on “external loan of $76 billion.
But in its response dated August 12, DMO explained that Nigeria’s external loan is $27.6 billion and not $76 billion.
The foreign creditors include the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and the Exim Bank of China.
Lawan had also said in June that federal lawmakers approved about $28 billion loan requests for President Muhammadu Buhari in the last one year.
But in his letter to the Senate president, a copy of which was made public yesterday, the former vice president said Nigerians should not sit back and watch while the nation teeters towards financial peril.
He said: “On May 29, 2015, Nigeria’s total national debt stood approximately at N12 trillion. As of August 2020, our national debt has tripled to N28.63 trillion. Even more alarming is the fact that the foreign debt portion of our national debt has risen from less than $10 billion on May 29, 2015, to almost $30 billion in August 2020.
“A further cause for concern is the fact that not all of these debts are necessary. A study of the use to which these monies have been put to will show that much of it has gone towards items or projects that are non-productive or viable.”
Atiku added that the future of Nigeria’s youth and unborn generations had been placed in what could very well be bondage-like conditions.
“As such, in view of your role as a check on the excesses of other arms of government, may I suggest that going forward, the National Assembly should refuse to approve any new loan requests, where such loans are to be spent on projects or items that are not income-generating or production-based, or indeed viable,” he said.