SERAP demands audit of FG’s loans since 1999

Advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged President Bola Tinubu to release to it copies of the loan agreements obtained by the governments of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.

It also called on the President to make public “the spending details of any such loans as well as the interests and other payments so far made on the loans.”

Furthermore, the group asked Tinubu “to establish an independent audit on the spending of the loans obtained by the governments of the former presidents, and to make public the findings of any such audit.”

In a request under the Freedom of Information Act dated April 13, 2024, and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said, “The information may help to explain why, despite several billions of dollars in loans obtained by successive governments, millions of Nigerians continue to face extreme poverty and lack access to basic public goods and services.”

SERAP said,“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for the country’s is N97.3tn ($108bn). The Federal Government’s debt is N87.3tn ($97bn).

“Nigeria paid $6.2bn in 2019 as interest on loans while the country paid $6.5 as interest in 2018. Nigeria also paid $5bn as interest on loans in 2017 while the country paid $4.4bn as interest in 2016. For 2015, the interest paid on loans was $5.5bn.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that substantial parts of the loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 may have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen, and in any case remain unaccounted for.

“Publishing copies of the agreements would also ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of the loans obtained between May 1999 and May 2023.”

The group said Tinubu’s government had a responsibility “to ensure transparency and accountability in how any loans obtained by the Federal Government are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

It said, “Providing us with copies of the loan agreements signed by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, and widely publishing the agreements would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it and to demand accountability for the spending of the loans.

“We would, therefore, be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

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