THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari, to make public the spending details of all loans his administration has taken since 2015 when he was inaugurated.
The organisation also requested the president to include in the detail, list of projects, amount of loans since 1999, repayment conditions.
SERAP tweeted on Sunday that if the president was able to meet up with its request which also include to audit all the loans, it would remove opacity, improve transparency and public trust in his administration.
This followed a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the organisation sent to the president on Saturday in which it made those requests.
The FoI request sent yesterday, read: “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,” SERAP wrote on Twitter.
The requests are according to SERAP are “Details of the spending of loans obtained by your government since May 29, 2015, including specific details of projects and locations of the projects as well as the conditions of any such projects.
“Total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by your government, including the interest rate, the details of debts inherited from the previous administrations, and details of refinancing of any such loans, as well as any strategy put together on borrowing decisions, and to promote sustainable borrowing.
“Wether any public officials solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans.”
In the letter signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP deputy director, the organisation urged the Nigerian leader to use his leadership position and the opportunity of the fifth year anniversary of his government to grant its request.
Few weeks ago, SERAP sent an open letter Buhari urging him to use his “leadership position to follow the ‘Namibia example’ by urgently issuing an executive order to ban the purchase of new cars by the presidency, and all ministers for the remainder of the tenure of your administration, that is, until May 2023.”
It will be recalled that President Buhari had last week sought the National Assembly’s approval for a fresh loan of $5.513bn, reportedly to fund the 2020 budget deficit, critical projects, and support some states.
The National Assembly had also recently approved a loan of N850 billion for the president while another loan of $22.79billion, already approved by the Senate, is pending before the House of Representatives.
SERAP said: “Opacity in the spending of loans would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens. Transparency would ensure that the loans are not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that these loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.”
According to SERAP, “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.”
SERAP also expressed “concerns about the massive and growing national debts, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.”
The FoI request, read in part: “While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape or form.”
“Any unresolved allegations of mismanagement, bribery and corruption in the use of loans would continue to deprive millions of Nigerians access to basic public goods and services, and would leave your government without the resources to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.”
“We urge you to ensure that those suspected to be responsible for any mismanagement and corruption are promptly referred to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for further investigation, and where there is relevant admissible evidence, prosecution.”
“Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by your government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption.”
“It would also help to avoid a morally repugnant result of visiting the sins of corrupt governments and officials on innocent Nigerians.”
“We also urge you to promptly instruct Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since the assumption of office in May 2015.”