THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja against President Muhammadu Buhari over secrecy in the spending of loans and reckless borrowing.
The suit with serial number ECW/CCJ/APP/05/22, filed by SERAP lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, seeks to compel the Federal Government to suspend borrowing by itself and the 36 states to conform with the country’s international human rights obligations.
“The crippling debt burden is a human rights issue within the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court because when the country is burdened by unsustainable debts, there will be little money left to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to legally enforceable socio-economic rights.
“Persistent and unsustainable borrowing by the federal and state governments and the crippling debt burden undermines the rights of Nigerians to economic and social development, and are antithetical to the public interest,” the suit read.
In its suit, SERAP stated that the Senate and House of Representatives recently approved the loans of $5.803 billion and a grant component of $10 million under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (rolling) Plan of the Federal Government.
These were preceded by previous approvals by the National Assembly of $16.2 billion loan; €1 billion and a grant component of $125 million loans; $36.8 billion, €910 million loans, and a grant component of $10 million; $8.3 billion and €490 million loans; $6.1 billion, $1.5 billion and 995 million loans; and $4 billion, €710 million and grant component of $125 million.
According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), the foreign debt stock of the Federal Government, 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory presently stands at $37.9 billion.
The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) 2021 financial report shows that Nigeria has a debt exposure of $11.7 billion and ranks fifth among the top 10 countries with highest debt risk exposure.
The top four countries are India with $22 billion, Bangladesh ($18.1 billion), Pakistan ($16.4 billion), and Vietnam ($14.1 billion).
“Sustainable debt management by the Federal Government and state governments will contribute to mobilizing resources for human rights and essential public services, and promote a culture of responsible borrowing.
“The Federal Government and many of the 36 states would seem to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress, lespecially loans from China alone which amount to $3.59 billion,” the suit read.
“While it is critical for the Federal Government and state governments to have adequate resources to fund their budgets, it is equally critical for governments to give consideration to the human rights impact of borrowing.
“Persistent borrowing is inconsistent with the country’s human rights obligations,” SERAP’s suit read.