Nigeria sinking into debt again

In the Daily Independent of Tuesday, July 27, 2010, p. 34, Thompson Ayodele and Olusegun Sotola, two public policy analysts based in Lagos, cautioned against any relapse by the government into the past abuse of foreign loans as a source of corrupt enrichment by the ruling elite.

I call on the reader to read the article, as well as mine on the same subject, and tell me why Nigerians should not rise to action against this unwarranted action by the government. The article by Ayodele and Sotola reported that the external debt now stands at $4.3 billion, and that in this year’s budget, a total of $3.3 billion is expected to go into debt servicing alone. What is worrisome is that we should not have gone on this pathway again considering our past experience on foreign debt and how we only recently got out of its crushing burden.

Recently, I received an email from Dr. John H. Boer, one of the foremost activists in the Jubilee Movement on Debt Relief, who worked tirelessly to see that Nigeria became free from our past debt burden and enslavement – a goal that finally came to pass during the Obansanjo administration. Dr. Boer expressed great disappointment that Nigerians were not objecting to this new policy of going for more foreign loans, thereby increasing the country’s debt profile again. Our past experience in external debt was so crushing and hopeless that ex-President Obasanjo said he was ready to step down as President if that was the sacrifice required to allow Nigeria get debt relief. This new direction by the government totally negates Obasanjo’s aggressive and tireless action to get the country out of the debt trap.

The Federal Government’s opening of a new chapter in external debt with the World Bank and its allies is terribly bad news and totally unbelievable. This move is so offensive that someone has said that the way to address it soonest is to take the FG to court, or even better, take the FG together with IMF, World Bank and others to the World Court in the Hague for banditry. This is the opinion of someone who is sad that our government has not learnt from our past experience on external debt.

Where does the reader stand on this matter? Should we take it that Nigerians do not object to this new direction, as expressed by Dr. Boer, or that we haven’t heard of it? What action do you suggest?

•Prof. Herbert M. Eze

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