Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has queried why the federal government should spend N2.5 trillion on debt servicing alone.
Atiku, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, also raised the alarm over the nation’s rising debt profile, stating that Nigeria cannot survive with the increasing debt under the Buhari administration.
According to data from the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s debt grew to N24.947 trillion in the first quarter of 2019, representing a marginal increase of N560 billion or 2.3 per cent.
This contrasts with the figure of N24.387 trillion posted as at December 2018.
Also, Nigeria’s external debt increased by N101.646 billion within the first three months of the year.
Atiku, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, expressed concerns about the rate at which the nation’s debt was increasing.
He wondered how Nigeria as a nation doubled its debt profile within four years.
He said the situation, if unchecked, would lead to enslaving the future generations and the eventual collapse of the economy.
He blamed the rising debt profile on what he called the incompetence of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku said: “If the current trend continues, Nigeria will have spent N2.5 trillion on debt servicing by the end of 2019, a figure that is more than our capital budget. Can a nation survive like this?
“The deeper we go into unsustainable debt, the more of her independence Nigeria loses to her creditors. The older generation should sacrifice for the youth. We must not be a vampire generation that squanders the financial lifeblood of Nigeria and bequeath financial bondage to the next generation.
“How did this happen? How could an administration double our national debt from N12 trillion in 2015 to N24.9 trillion today and still have no tangible evidence of development to show for it?”
He said to put the debt profile in perspective, in the first three months of 2019, what Nigeria had spent on servicing domestic debt, so far, was more than the combined entire budget for education and youth development for the whole of 2019. He said he was worried about the rising debt profile of Nigeria because “no matter how much resources you give a man who does not know how to create wealth, it will never be enough”.
The former vice president said he was not raising an unnecessary alarm because the National Bureau of Statistics had released Q1 statistics which revealed that in the first quarter of 2019 (January to March), the federal government spent N610.2 billion to service domestic debts.
He stated that it was worrisome that the money was spent on servicing (paying interest) debt, not in repaying debt.
In view of this, he urged an immediate action to address Nigeria’s unsustainable debt burden, adding, “This is especially as the National Economic Council which he chaired in 2006, paid off Nigeria’s entire debt under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo.”
The statement said for the avoidance of doubt, that not long ago, Atiku had outlined a robust strategy for the funding of the country’s development needs without resort to indiscriminate borrowing.
According to him, the alarm on the increasing debt profile is to alert stakeholders in the Nigerian project to the existential threat affecting Nigeria and for which the Buhari administration has allegedly chosen to ignore.