By Udora Orizu
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to use his leadership position and the opportunity of the 5th anniversary of his government in office to provide spending details of all loans obtained by the government since May 29, 2015, including details and locations of projects on which the loans have been spent.
SERAP is also urging him to set up an independent audit of all loans to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and to publish spending details of loans obtained by successive administrations since 1999.
Buhari had last week sought the National Assembly’s approval for fresh external borrowings totalling $5.513 billion to finance deficits in the revised 2020 appropriation bill, critical projects, and support for some states of the federation in their fight against Covid-19.
In the FoI request dated May 30, 2020, signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, and copied to Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abukabar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, and Director-General of Debt Management Office (DMO), Patience Oniha, the organisation expressed concerns that while governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay these loans.
It said the opacity in the spending of loans would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens, adding that transparency would ensure that the loans are not diverted to private pockets and increase public trust.
The FoI request read in part: ‘’Rather than taking more loans and increasing Nigeria’s debts burden to fund the opulent lifestyles of former state governors receiving life pensions, we urge you to cut the costs of governance, including by obeying the judgment ordering your government to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws, and to recover pensions collected by former governors.’’