Nigeria’s Debt Profile; Debt of Shame and The Moral Burden

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Nigeria is the giant of Africa with her current population of 205,108,144 as at on the 22nd of April 2020. The figure is based on the worldometer elaboration on the latest United Nations data. It is a country blessed with a lot of mineral resources which is the major source of the country’s revenue. It is also a country blessed with fertile land for prudent production of food via farming.

Years before the advent of colonialism (precolonial era) the people survived on agricultural products and they produced enough food via farming to quench the hunger in the land. They never relied on crude oil to feed, neither were they depending on the proceeds from the crude oil to survive and there was nothing like political thuggery. At a point in time the British came and colonised the country. As a result of what we passed through  in the hands of the Colonial masters, there was quest for independence, which was later championed by our modern Nationalists, Nnamdi Azikwe, Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo and others who believed in their struggle for independence.

The struggle haven succeeded on 1st October 1960, Nigeria later had her first president on the 1st of October 1963 with Nnamdi Azikwe as the head of the government in the first republic. That became the beginning of our experience in the self government. Nigerians took full charge of the affairs of governance owing to the fact that it is the first republic experienced by our Nigerians.

The second republic was experienced from the 1979 to 1983 led by the Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government. The government that brought development to the people and the brain behind the Ajaokuta Complex, where we have companies that could change the story of our dear country Nigeria, but was aborted by General Muhammad Buhari, who was later overthrown and the government taken over by a Military Maradona, General Ibrahim Babangida. That again became a lead way to the third republic between 1989 to 1993.

Within all these aforementioned republic, Nigeria is not plunged into the huge debt she found herself today.

The fourth republic began with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution ushered in Olusengu Obasanjo as the President of our Nation. In this period, Nigeria witnessed what is called debt relief as the country was relieved of some debt to enable the country grow fast. This development wouldn’t be successful if Obasanjo was not a man with good international reasoning.

With the previous borrowing at both domestic and international borrowing spree in 30 months, starting from when President Buhari took over the reins of power on the 29th May, 2015, Nigeria’s debt increased by over N10 trillion. The debt profile as at then that I was keenly following rose to about 22 trillion on the equivalent of about $73billion. This signify an increase of over 80 percent in less than 3 years. The nation’s debt was at the point of N12.06 trillion, but between 2015 and 2017 it went up to N22 trillion.

This borrowing continues with no recourse to warning from experts, that high debt stock could reduce the Nation’s development as it did before the 2004 debt relief.

Ordinarily at 19 percent, Nigeria’s debt to GDP is healthy, but it is disastrous not to consider the debt to revenue ratio, which determines the ability to payback her debts.

According to Mrs. Gloria Joseph Raji, a world Bank Senior Economist as at then, Nigeria’s debt to revenue went up from 35 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2016. If without the then borrowing, Nigeria expended 66 percent of her total revenue on debt servicing, leaving just 34 percent for both capital and recurrent expenditure, what sense does it make to borrow more?

Think of what it will be after the current China loan grant.Are we not in danger? The most regrettable of all is when we try to assess our dear Nation, to know the positive impact of the loan taken so far: is there anything to show? Are there adequate health facilities? Are Nigerian workers being taken care of? Are our roads not still in bad shapes? Are the lives of Nigerians safe? Do we have adequate educational facilities? The answer is in the negative as we have bad roads, inadequate health facilities, inadequate facilities for conducive learning and host of other inadequacies. Nigeria’s debt profile is best described as it is today as a debt of shame, and the story will not be complete without shifting the moral burden to our leaders who borrowed funds but have nothing tangible to show for it. 

Following the history of Nigeria’s indebtedness at a time, I became lost and had zero interest on the ground that the borrower has nothing to show in place for the debt. There was another fund borrowed from China and now Nigerian Government is talking of another $3.4 Billion Loan from IMF.

Let’s gather and ask ourselves as a Nation: will there be anything to show for it?

Kano State Governor just about some days ago asked for Fifteen Billion Naira from the Federal Government to fight a disease in Kano State. Is that not ridiculously strange? The fund if given, will the people gain much from the fund? You may be keen to ask if countries like US borrow, and the answer is capital YES. They do but they have a lot to show for funds borrowed. It is only in our nation that you will hear that money meant for Covid 19 was duly disbursed, yet we can’t find what the disbursement was made for. A day after the news of how much was spent from the Covid 19 fund came out, the House of Representatives threatened to probe the disbursement of the fund.

Amazingly, the following day, we got a breaking news of the burning of the Treasury House in Abuja even when there is a lockdown order. How did it happen if it is not by government magic? Is Nigeria as a country serious in the pursuit of her agendas? The answer to the question is capital NO.

Until Nigerian leadership is devoid of hypocrisy and praise singing, and the governed takes the Bull by the horn to tell the government of its failure if we want the Nigeria of our dream Dear Nigerians, maybe that will help improve the expected positive result of governance. It is time for us to time our time for we may have no time to time time any more. 

– Arome Odoma Esq
Human Right Lawyer,
Lokoja, Kogi State.

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