September 27, 2023

Debt Crisis: We beg for Nigeria’s debt cancellation – ANEEJ, others

Debt, DMO, Nigeria

By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA – AS debt crisis cripple economies in Africa, the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, and other Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, Tuesday, begged for cancellation of debt for Nigeria and other African countries.

The Executive Director, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, led other CSO executives to call on creditor nations to forgive Nigeria as the country is overwhelmed and alarmed by the huge debt burden.

Ugolor wants the intervention of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, IMF, China, African Development Bank, AfDB, others to consider the cancellation of debt owed by Nigeria and other African countries.

He made the call while speaking at a two-day National Conference on ‘Debt and Development’ organised by ANEEJ in conjunction with the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development, AFRODAD, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA, with the theme ‘Repositioning Nigeria For A Debt-Free Africa’.

The two-day conference had in attendance the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, Debt management office, DMO, other Government officials including the media.

Ugolor noted that the government must consistently develop different approaches in borrowing  money to diversify the economy, to finance capital projects through blue economy infrastructures, develop tourism, railways, agriculture, technology innovation, solid, energy transition, and prioritize all sectors of the economy to compete with other developed nations.

He said: “Nigeria’s ballooning debt burden remains one of the major challenges the new government is facing.

“The Debt Management Office of Nigeria disclosed recently that Nigeria’s total public debt hit N87.38 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2023.

“The figure represents 75. 29 per cent compared to N49.85 trillion recorded at the end of March this year.

“This is quite disturbing because most of Nigeria’s revenue is now being channelled to debt servicing obligations at the peril of basic social services in the country.

“This becomes even more worrisome when viewed against the backdrop that Nigeria remains the world poverty capital as designated by the World Poverty Clock Report of 2023. It means debt will drive more Nigerians into extreme and multidimensional poverty if urgent and drastic steps are not taken by both the Nigerian Government and the International community.

“Due to the significant debt burden, Nigeria lacks the fiscal capability to fulfil its commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and contribute to the attainment of the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Instead of making accelerated progress, the country, like many other African countries is regressing according to what the United Nations has termed a ‘Decade of Action’.

“However, Nigeria’s deepening debt crisis does not occur in isolation, high fiscal deficits in many African countries have made it difficult to build resilience and tackle the multiple shocks including COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and insecurity occasioned by terrorism and banditry.

“As at last year, eight African countries were in debt distress and 13 at high risk of debt distress, against this backdrop, African leaders, recently who gathered at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 September, called for debt relief across the continent to allow countries to get on with responding to climate change and other development crisis.

“The costs of the crisis are unevenly distributed, with the heaviest burden bearing down on the population that is more exposed to economic, social and climate vulnerabilities.

 “Nigeria has the awful distinction of being the world capital of poverty, with 71 million people living in extreme poverty today (World Poverty Clock, 2023) and a total of 133 million people classed as multi-dimensional poor according to National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, data.”

According to him, Ugolor, the AFRODAD and its partners had in Dakar, Senegal organised the third edition of African Forum on Debt and Development (AFCODD III) from 29 August – September 1 2023 with the theme ‘Reimagine, Rethink, Reorganise and Remobilise Africa for a new World Order’.

“And I recall the remarks of the Executive Director of Trust Africa, Dr. Ebrima Sall, at that event that “We need a new world order because this old world order is not working for Africa.”

“For us to achieve a new world order of our dreams, we therefore need to reposition the most populous black nation in Africa and of the world at large, our dear country Nigeria to provide leadership to the rest of Africa.

“There is urgent need of the global financial and debt architecture to reduce the cost, time and legal complications for debt restructuring for African countries, as well as inclusive climate SDGs indicators in debt sustainability analysis”, he said.