By Jonah Nwokpoku
A civil society group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, has raised alarm over the increasing public debt profiles of state governments in the country.
It decried the rate at which state governments recklessly borrow money with the connivance of State Assemblies at the expense of tax payers.
It argued that contrary to publicised local debts of the states by the Debt Management Office, most states were actually heavily indebted with some of them resorting to unrealistic budgets to cover up their high debt profiles.
The group called on the incoming National Assembly to enact a law creating Public Debts Management Commission of the Federation, “to centrally coordinate the compilation and management of the country’s public debts of the three tiers of Federal, state and local governments.”
The group in a statement by the chairman, Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi, said: “We call on the incoming National Assembly of Nigeria to enact an Act creating Public Debts Management Commission of the Federation.
‘’The law creating the Commission will ensure its membership is drawn from the country’s three tiers of government and the FCT in representative capacity. Its leadership composition must also reflect the provisions of Section 14 (3) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (equitable representation).
“The proposed Act should make it mandatory and sanctionable within a specific timeframe for the three tiers of government particularly states and the LGAs to furnish the Commission with full details of their local debt stocks.
‘’One of the sanctions will be the use of order of the court of competent jurisdiction to temporarily freeze the accounts of the defaulting state, particularly any state that doctors or under-reports its debt stocks.
“There should be a provision in the Act as well compelling all local lending institutions, including commercial banks, to independently furnish the commission periodically with details of loans given to the states/LGAs.
‘’The Act should expand in definition and scope of the public debts to include unpaid workforce-retired and serving wage arrears including pensions, allowances, salaries and gratuities running into six months and years.