Publish terms and conditions of all loans or we meet in court, labour, CSOs tell Nigerian govt

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Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a coalition of over 70 labour and civil society organisations (CSOs), threatened Federal government with a legal action if it failed to immediately publish the terms and conditions of all loans it has taken so far.

The coalition also asked the national assembly to reveal the terms and conditions of all external loans.

In a statement on Sunday, the coalition said it would challenge the authorities in court if the disclosures are not made.

The statement was signed by its Chairman, Mr Femi Falana, (SAN); the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, who are both co-chairmen, threatening a legal action against the government if it failed to publish details of the loans.

ASCAB said the huge debt being incurred by the country has the potential of stifling the prospect of economic liberation and political freedom of the people.

It lamented that Nigerian debt profile “which was N12.118 trillion as at May 2015 has leapt to N27.401 trillion in 2019, representing more than 100 percent debt increase”.

“The country’s level of poverty continues to increase with the skyrocketing loans obtained by the federal government. Poverty, extreme hunger, frivolous lifestyle of public office holders continue to fuel violence and public disorder across the country,” it said.

“Why the government has responded effectively to the needs of public officials including members of the national assembly, the economic and social needs of the people remain a mirage.”

ASCAB said recent revelations at the national assembly has confirmed that the loans were taken without proper public scrutiny.

The group alleged that within a year, the national assembly had approved a total of $28 billion for President Muhammadu Buhari with no commensurate improvement in the quality of lives of many Nigerians.

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“Millions of Nigerians continue to face harsh economic difficulties, lacking access to basic needs, yet the debt profile of the country continues to increase,” it said.

“It is even more grievous that the government continues to take loans on behalf of the people without their consent neither their keen understanding of the terms.”

ASCAB said the national assembly appears desperate to pull the wool over the face of Nigerians by covering up its tracks regarding the clause in the Chinese loan.

“The opaque nature of the loans is against the principles of the Nigerian constitution,” ASCAB said, citing section 21(1) of the debt management office establishment (ETC) act, 2003,” it said.

“Instead of grandstanding over the matter, the members of the National Assembly ought to apologise to the Nigerian people and proceed to scrutinise the terms and conditions of all other external loans.

“The loans taken by Nigeria from China raised public outcry last week when a clause that was alleged to have compromised Nigeria’s sovereignty was discovered.

“According to the Debt Management Office, the total value of loans taken by Nigeria from China as at March 31, 2020, was $3.121 billion, an indication that the Chinese loan is some 3.94% of Nigeria’s total public debt of $79.303 as at March 31, 2020, while external sources of funds, loans from China accounted for 11.28% of the external debt profile of $27.67 at the same date.

“The loans were obtained with interest rates of 2.5% per annum, to be paid in 20 years with moratorium of seven years.”

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The coalition said it is important to ask whether Nigeria really needs “the jumbo loans” when sources of boosting public funds are either yet to be fully explored or completely ignored.

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