Transforming Uplifting and Reforming Nigeria (TURN) which is committed to the socio-economic well-being of Nigeria has expressed its concern about the indebtedness of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the People’s Republic of China. The organization is worried also about what it called “the reported enslaving terms of conditions which Nigeria agreed to in order to secure the loans.”
This is contained in 13 April, 2021 statement signed in Ottawa, Canada, by Dr. AG Ahmed, MD, LLM, FRCPC, President; Nelson O. Irobi, MASC, M.sc, CSLT, AIMLT, Vice-President, Administration and Dr. Olusola Womiloju, Ph.D.,Vice President, Finance. It was sent to TheNEWS today.
TURN is a Diaspora non-governmental organization with a mandate to address critical issues relating to the humanitarian needs and services in Nigeria. It was formed in 2004 and has worked without much publicity on projects aimed at alleviating the suffering of Nigerians. It operates on the ideology that rests on a tripod of collaborations with reputable organizations of like minds within Nigeria and the Diaspora who share the goals of transforming, uplifting and reforming our great country, Nigeria. TURN operates on the philosophy of giving back to the homeland.
Thus, it showed its apprehension 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, like many other developing countries. In contrast, it said 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. What does this mean to a country like Nigeria? What risk is Nigeria facing with her indebtedness to China?”
The statement has it further:
“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. 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.
Last year, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance held hearings into the conditionalities surrounding these loans only to be shut down by powers from above. Numerous questions and concerns surrounding these loans have remained unanswered. 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. To that end, there is the need for all well-meaning Nigerians to hold the government to account and demand answers.
For example, we ask that the government should provide answers and not hide the details of the $460 million loan used to fund the Abuja CCTV, a project that has spectacularly failed? Why will the Minister of Finance not disclose contractors paid for this project? TURN insists that it is unacceptable that any project funded by loans that Nigeria will have to pay back be tainted with fraud and shrouded with a cloak of secrecy.
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 are 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.
Going forward, TURN would like to see the Federal Government conduct rigorous and trans-parent evaluation of all current and active loans. Government needs to involve experts from the private sector to evaluate the risks and benefits of a loan and take all necessary steps to ensure that it truly benefits the country. TURN would like to see periodic review, monitoring and reporting by the Ministry of Finance or Presidency regarding Nigeria-China Loan agree-ments to ensure continued relevance for intended purpose and meeting regulatory scrutiny.
TURN believes that loans taken by the government should not mortgage the future of the citizens or that of the unborn generation. TURN is requesting 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. Finally, 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.Nigeria is our own and we must collectively protect and nurture her to good health by getting involved in the process of redeeming and restoring to its greatness.”