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Nigeria’s “reckless borrowing” continues!

Meanwhile, there has been no appreciable attempt to strengthen the Fiscal Responsibility Act...

There has been justifiable public outcry over President Buhari’s intention to borrow an additional $4.179 billion to keep his government running. It would appear as if he is completely disconnected from his economic team. Both the Chairman of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), Professor Doyin Salami and another prominent member, Mr Bismark Rewane, a foremost economist, have advised caution and referred to “reckless borrowing” pushing the nation over the edge of a “financial cliff”. A synonym for reckless is the word “irresponsible”. Only an irresponsible parent piles up debts for his children to repay. President Buhari is mortgaging the nation’s future by incurring debts, which future generations will have to repay with nothing to show for it. In truth, despite all previous borrowing, Nigeria’s once thriving economy has collapsed. A debt service ratio of 87 per cent is sufficient evidence that the government’s policy of continuously borrowing to finance development has failed woefully.

There is a general consensus that this administration focuses on ill-considered borrowing because it lacks any strategy to create wealth for the nation. In the process, they have destroyed the value of the Naira, which exchanged at N167 to $1 when they came to power, but now exchanges at N567 to $1! It’s difficult to comprehend why this administration insists on continuing to borrow money when habitually cannot account for the money they have. For example, the N9.3 trillion reported “missing” in the NNPC audit memo, the N2 trillion wrongly paid out in the fuel subsidy scam and the N500 billion “missing” under the Social Investment Program amongst others too numerous to mention.

Meanwhile, there has been no appreciable attempt to strengthen the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which governs how public money is supposed to be spent and accounted for. It’s a national disgrace that government wants to borrow more money when the Auditor-General of the Federation revealed that Ministries Department and Agencies (MDA’s) failed to account for N4.97 trillion in 2019 alone and furthermore 65 public agencies have never been audited since they were established!

The much-touted “war on corruption” has been proved to be a politicised mirage, which allows “favoured ones” to go scot-free. The unfortunate truth is that today’s political leaders simply do not represent the wishes and interests of citizens. Sixty-two per cent of Nigerians are under 24 years of age; a further 30 per cent is aged between 24 and 54. Today’s geriatric leadership firmly stuck in the past have nothing in common with the majority of Nigerians in terms of world view, economic ideology, intellectual capacity, technological awareness and political consciousness. While Nigerian youths use their vision and ability to create a billion-dollar entertainment industry from scratch without assistance, the nation’s aged leadership praises itself for preparing to manufacture pencils!

The very idea of borrowing to build infrastructure clearly illustrates the government’s misplaced priorities. They construct bridges and flyovers for the rich to drive over and poor homeless citizens to sleep under. They construct roads, which they then ban the poor from street hawking or begging on. Fixated upon borrowing to build infrastructure, their only solution to getting rid of poverty is to keep poor people out of sight! Only those in power know why they prefer to go begging and borrowing rather than reduce waste and the cost of governance.

It’s difficult to see any benefit that has accrued to anyone other than political office holders’ from all the previous loans taken. Nigeria is borrowing to service debts, finance recurrent expenditure and facilitate treasury looting. How else is there money for outrageous allowances, luxury mansions, political campaigning, luxury official SUVs and Presidential Jets, but no money to uplift the misery and suffering of citizens? It’s increasingly evident that those currently holding power are occupying high political offices, which they aren’t trained for, not prepared for and eminently unqualified for. Their disastrous economic and social policies have wreaked havoc on Nigeria.

All the productive sectors of the economy have been crippled, the cost of food and essential commodities have skyrocketed, while insecurity and mass murder have become the order of the day. In return for maintaining the defective status quo, they reward themselves for their non-achievement in critical fields and fully expect to spend the rest of their lives living at public expense while justifying their failures.

The problem for Nigeria is that even as disastrous economic policies are fast tracking Nigeria into economic ruination, it’s not possible to change the minds of people who don’t know that they don’t know. It’s not possible to fix a mindset that believes in a certain way of doing things even if all evidence point to the opposite. Although the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to reject the loan application, nobody expects the rubber-stamp National Assembly to be principled enough to refuse. Despite the fact that there is no mention of how the money will be repaid and that all previous loans have failed to impact positively on unemployment and poverty, they approved $1.5 billion and €995 million just a few months ago. There are far too many stories of principal officers being “settled” to bulldoze loan applications through for there to be no substance to the allegations. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose administration is lauded for clearing the nation’s foreign debt, has condemned the continuous borrowing by the Buhari administration as “foolish and criminal”. He said that failing to address the issue of repayment in concrete terms is criminal and a disservice to future generations. This administration has increased Nigeria’s debt profile from N12 trillion in 2014 to N33 trillion as at present. Nigerians can only console themselves that sometime in the future when our “heroes past” have finally had their day, “future heroes” will successfully deconstruct the financial mess and failed system they will leave behind as a result of their penchant for reckless, irresponsible borrowing.