We are not surprised at the dust being raised in the bid by the three geopolitical zones of the old Northern Nigeria to obtain what is described as “a multi-billion Dollar” loan from the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
The Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Kassim Shettima, who is also the Governor of embattled Borno State, led a delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about a fortnight ago. The governors in the entourage also included Tanko Al Makura of Nasarawa, Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna and Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa States, as well as some officials of the New Nigerian Development Corporation (NNDC) and other officials in the fields of agriculture, economic planning, post-insurgency projects, among others.
Shettima justified the trip saying the North, being the poorest part of the country burdened with the headache of Islamist Boko Haram insurgency, needs the loan to boost economic activities and protect the region from impending social explosion which might take place unless ambitious, proactive measures are taken by the leadership of the North.
Though we understand the needs that are driving the bid for this loan, we however, urge the governors to tread with caution.
It is imperative that they follow the due process by informing the Federal Government in detail about what they want to do and how they want to apply the loan. We will like them to listen closely to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Domestic and Foreign Debt, Senator Shehu Sani, who has raised alarm that the bid runs contrary to the provisions of the Debt Management Act of 2003, which stipulates that no state, local government or Federal agency can borrow externally without the approval of the Federal Government.
This and other statutory provisions are geared towards checking indiscriminate borrowing that will overburden the country and make our indebtedness out of balance with what the nation’s economy can handle.
We are, however, mollified by Governor Shettima’s assurance that the recent trip to Saudi was still an exploratory one, which means that there is still enough time for the Arewa governors to meet up with the due processes.
We also advocate for a strict monitoring of the spending, if, and when the loan is granted. There is no doubt that the North (especially the North East) will need this kind of financial boost to bring economic activities fully back on stream at the end of the Boko Haram insurgency, resettle the millions of displaced persons and rebuild devastated communities.
The governors should work closely with the Federal Government to ensure that this loan does not put an unbrearable burden for future generations.