Buhari: Seeking Debt Forgiveness While Collecting More Foreign Loans
President Muhammadu Buhari sometimes presents the image of an unpredictable public figure. This is because more often than not, his statements and actions run contrary to the publicized principles and policies of his administration. The President therefore leaves both his admirers and critics confused on what he wants and where exactly he is going. It is no longer news that the present administration’s over-reliance, if not obsession, on/with foreign loans has since 2015 become a source of concern for a lot of Nigerians.
In fact, the consistency with which the President requests for foreign loans these days and the swift manner in which the self-confessed rubber stamp National Assembly approves same, is one thing a lot of Nigerians find embarrassing. These days, it is difficult if not impossible for a month to pass by without the Senate approving millions of dollars Chinese loan facility for one capital project or the President sending a memo to the Upper Chamber seeking approval for fresh loans to finance a major rail project.
Due to this debt crisis, the federal government has in recent years been spending almost 90 percent of its revenue on debt servicing, not even repayment. And without a coherent and convincing repayment plan, the future generations of Nigerians therefore face a huge clog on the wheel of their progress. What is more shocking is the fact that in the midst of the debt crisis he has plunged the nation into, the President has started a new song which appears he alone dances to. In recent international functions, President Buhari has been raising concerns on the debt burdens of African and third world countries, including Nigeria, and calling on creditor-nations to show mercy and cancel the debts.
In the recently concluded Investment Summit in Saudi Arabia, the President said: “Investment in humanity must also take into consideration the effects of debt burden on nations, which had been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We cannot invest in humanity without relieving our countries from the crushing effects of the debt burden especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of deepening the debt portfolio of poor countries. “These nations increasingly allocate more and more resources towards external debt servicing and repayment at the expense of the health, education and other services that contribute to the overall wellbeing of their population.”
However, that was not the first time the President campaigned for developing countries to be granted relief on debt burdens to ease their fiscal challenges. Buhari made a similar plea for debt relief and cancellation during his address at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
What is curious is the fact that President Buhari did not put a stop to his own insatiable appetite for foreign loans while campaigning for debt forgiveness. He keeps collecting – even when financial experts and economists say it is becoming unhealthy and toxic – and he keeps advocating for debt forgiveness and cancellation, reminiscent of a serial offender, who keeps committing the same crimes and continues to ask for forgiveness.
Checks with the Debt Management Office (DMO) revealed that as at October, 2021, Nigeria had ccrued a staggering debt figure of N35 trillion. Nigeria’s debt portfolio actually skyrocketed under President Buhari’s administration, rising from N12.12 trillion in June 2015, a month after he assumed office, to N32.92 trillion as at December 2020. So far President Buhari has taken $12.3 billion foreign loan in 2021 alone.
More Loans In The Midst Of Debt Forgiveness Advocacy
While campaigning for debt forgiveness, the President requested for $6.1 billion (N2.343 trillion) in July and it was approved by the Senate.
President Buhari’s recent loan request of $4 billion ($4,054,476,863) and €710 million loan from bilateral and multilateral organisations to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget came barely 2 months after the National Assembly approved his earlier request to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans contained in the initial 2018-2020 borrowing plan.
Though the latest of President Buhari’s Loan Request of $700m for the Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene project under the Ministry of Water Resources, was rejected by the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, there are strong indications that the leadership of the Red Chamber would intervene and approve the request in line with their public vow not to reject anything that comes from the President, whether good or bad.
President Buhari must make a choice between being a Perennial, Unrepentant Debtor and a Debt Forgiveness Advocate.