Some youth groups across the country have vowed to protest against the Federal Government’s plan to get fresh $5.5bn loan, thus adding to Nigeria’s N19.2tn debt profile. The groups described the country’s increasing debt profile as worrisome and capable of mortgaging their future and that of coming generations.
They told Saturday PUNCH in separate interviews on Thursday that they would protest should the National Assembly approve the Federal Government’s proposal of fresh $5.5bn foreign loan, noting that there was nothing to show for the loans previously secured by the country. As of June 2017, Nigeria’s total indebtedness to foreign and local creditors stood at N19.16tn, according to the Debt Management Office. The debt had increased by N7.1tn between 2015 and 2017. According to the DMO, states’ external debt profile as of June 30, 2017, stood at $3.9bn (N1.4tn).
The Federal Government spent $25.82bn (N7.88tn) on servicing its debts between 2012 and 2016. In the first three months of 2017, it spent N520.11bn to service its debts. And just last week, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the Senate to approve a proposal for another $5.5bn (N1.8tn) foreign loan. The Federal Government, through the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had on Thursday explained that the $5.5bn loan would take the country between five and 30 years to repay. Adeosun, who was represented by the Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, said this at a defence session organised by the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts in Abuja.
Asking Nigerians to focus on the long-term benefits of the loan, the minister also insisted that the Federal Government would have to borrow more to complete a number of ongoing infrastructural projects. But the Convener, Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progress Forum, Dachung Bagos, feared that by 2018, 70 per cent of Nigeria’s budget might be spent on debt servicing and wondered how the country would survive. Bagos, who also lamented the level of indebtedness by state governments, vowed to champion a protest against further borrowing should the National Assembly approve Buhari’s proposal.
He said, “I can tell you that if the Senate today approves that the President should borrow, honestly, we and other Nigerian youths will embark on a mass protest against persistent borrowing by the current administration, and many human right activists will also support such a mass protest. “Again, there are clear possibilities that the situation would continue because the monies borrowed are not being channelled into the right sectors for development.” The President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, described the fresh loan request as something “every patriotic Nigerian should be worried about.”
“It is as good as mortgaging the future of this generation,” he said. Yerima added, “We will resist any attempt by anyone or any group of individuals to mortgage the future of this generation and also compromise the country. “When they get the loans, there are agreements that come with them, which may never be in the best interest of the country.”
Also, the President, Youth Coalition for Millennium Development Goals, Jigawa State, Mr. Yunusa Hamza, said in addition to a mass protest, the group would use the social media to drive a vibrant campaign against debt. “The power of the new media is great. Hence, we will drive a social media campaign to stop it. Our future must not be destroyed “If all the money we’ve borrowed in time past had been judiciously used, we would not be talking about poor electricity, bad roads and so on.”
In the view of the President, Middle Belt Youth Council, Emma Zopmal, the Federal Government lacked the justification to borrow more money considering the spending culture of the current administration and lack of justification for the loans secured in the past. He said President Buhari’s persistent penchant for unnecessary foreign trips was a clear testimony that the government had enough money to waste. He said, “We’ll organise a mass protest to resist this bad trend. I also want other patriotic Nigerians to stage a mass movement against unnecessary borrowing. Citizens should not allow government to be dictating on all issues.
“It’s the duty of every Nigerian to know what the government has been doing with the previous money borrowed. What are the achievements recorded thus far? The needs assessment that necessitated that borrowing should be made public, not just through pronouncements. We have had enough of manipulated needs for borrowing. We’ll resist any further attempt to laden the economy with debts.”
Similarly, the National Public Relations Officer, Association of Nigerian Graduates Against Unemployment, Mr. Oni Kehinde, said, “We will hold protests if the government fails to understand the simple message we are passing across now. As the citizens of this country, we have the right to say no to these loans. It is a thing we must do. If we spend so much to service loans, where will we get money to create employment and do other things?
“I think it will be a tsunami if we allow the President to take another loan. One key consideration when taking a loan is source of income and we generate very little. If I take N5, 000 from you and I take N5, 000 from another person and then take N5, 000 from a third party to service the loan I took from the first person. It means a great problem for the business in future. A day will come that the first person will seize my collateral, the second person will seize another thing and there will be nothing to fall back on.”
The Ijaw Youth Council also said that it would hold mass protest against the continued borrowing by the Buhari-led administration. IYC President, Mr. Eric Omare, told one of our correspondents that it would take the step to prevent a situation where the future of the country would be mortgaged. He said, “More borrowing will retard development because in years to come, the entire income of Nigeria would be used for debt servicing if nothing is done to save the situation. “What that means is that there would be no money to carry out capital projects and even at a point, we will not be able to take care of our recurrent expenditures.
“Even the borrowing is not geared towards diversifying the Nigerian economy; the borrowing in most cases is used to service recurrent expenditure, which does not contribute to our economic growth. That is why it is dangerous. ”The President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Mr. Chinonso Obasi, said rather than keep borrowing, the Federal Government should look inwards and think of generating more revenue.
He said, “We believe the Federal Government should know how to generate revenue without having to continuously depend massively on loans. The issue is that those who borrow keep borrowing.” Also, the Acting Chairman, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Kwara State chapter, Mr. Alli Yusuf, who lamented the dangers of continued borrowing, said his group would soon meet with all its executive members to take a decision on the protest.