By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja
Presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Labour Party (LP) candidate, Peter Obi and that of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso have differ over loan repayment Nigeria is owing internationally, and domestically.
Nigeria as at September, 2022, has a total debt of N44.06 trillion and most of it was taken for domestic and foreign loans.
But speaking on a topic, “Ensuring Transparency in Managing Nigeria’s Foreign Loan,” on Focus Nigeria, an AIT programme supported by CEDANAC Resources on the Policy options for the next administration in Nigeria hosted by Ameachi Anakwe, the presidential candidates narrated how they will bring Nigeria out of the debt burden.
While some of the presidential candidates say they will still borrow if they get into office, others said there will be transparency in the management of the loan and repayment of the ones taken by the previous administration.
Speaking, the spokesman of the Atiku/Okowa presidential campaign council, Ehiedu Aniagwu, said the PDP had done a lot of leg work to service the loans through opening of businesses and partnership with the private sector.
“Nigeria currency will spend about N310 billion to service the loan in the 2023 budget. Atiku is evaluating it and ensuring that he gets the private sector to be involved by bringing the economy back on track,” Aniagwu said, adding that in 1999 when Atiku and Obasanjo came to power, the economy was growing not more than 2.1 percent.
“But in less than 3 months, the economy grew to 14.6%,” Aniagwu said, adding that Atiku headed the economic team that achieved that.
“Government must ensure it invests with any money borrowed. The loan taken by the PDP at that time had a timeline to be paid and they were attached to projects,” Aniagwu said, adding that the PDP will ensure that Nigeria assets are not taken as a result of loan.
“We will ensure that clauses which aim to takeover Nigerians assets are renegotiated. Atiku wants to bring back jobs. He talks about what he will do with foreign debt from his manifesto,” Aniagwu said, adding that Atiku is already reaching out to the countries the present administration took loan from on possible ways of repayments. Atiku/Okowa will ensure that agriculture, private sectors are stimulated for economic growth.
On his part, the Youth Spokesman of the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign Council, Aliyu Audu, said there was nothing wrong in borrowing, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic made it possible for any country who wants to develop to borrow.
According to Audu, the government must borrow to develop infrastructure as long as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is good.
“The COVID era has forced the government to borrow for the infrastructure. The size of the loan should not be a concern if the GDP ratio is good,” Audu said, adding that Tinubu will ensure that every available avenue is put in place to kickstart the infrastructure without much borrowing.
“Instead of borrowing, you should look at the interest of your nation. If there is a need to borrow in Europe for your country to benefit, you move to Europe. Europe needs gas. If we can supply gas, then we get what we want from them
“We can go into partnership to build, operate and own and Tinubu said that the loans will be tied to projects that can generate revenue.
He said Nigerians should be confident of Tinubu because he has a lot of experience.
“There is no nation that doesn’t owe. But what is important is revenue generation. The Buhari administration has improved growth and infrastructure. What is missing is revenue generation. We are on the right track. If the youth using the internet cannot pay tax, using mobile phones, without tax, we are not generating enough. Tinubu will ensure 7-10 GDP growth yearly. No better person than Tinubu and he will ensure the country is productive,” Audu added.
On his part, the spokesman of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko said the other political parties have managed resources without transparency adding that his candidate will ensure that Nigeria moves from consumption to production.
“In the last 24 years, both the APC and the PDP mismanaged the revenue generated. They supervise the issue of oil theft,” Tanko said, adding that Obi will block leakages, reschedule the loans and manage them transparently.
“Obi will ensure the waste in the society is not encouraged. Peter Obi and Baba Ahmed will ensure they subsidize consumption and encourage production.
“It is left for the Nigerian people to look at the issue of the debt imposed on them or they will continue to have debt on their neck. We will move from a consuming nation to a productive nation with Peter Obi. Obi will bring the issue of loan to the public with all agreements concerning the loans.
“He will make the 774 LGAs productive and every Nigeria will be involved. Any loan collected for the Nigerian people will be made public. Those who do the trading of the Nigerian state must account for their actions.
“Peter Obi is interested in making public what they do to the state resources, look at the debt critically and how it can benefit the Nigeria people,” Tanko said.
On his part, the spokesman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) who spoke on behalf of Kwankwaso, Major Agbo, said leadership is about the people but added that in Nigeria, it has been shrouded in secrecy.
“NNPP will ensure Nigeria knows what the debt burden is. We will establish what the debt profile is and discuss with the creditors on how possible we are going to pay.
“The NNPP government will go into agreement with the creditors on how to pay so that Nigerians do not feel the burden.
“Advanced democracy also borrows money. But are you borrowing for consumption? Kwankwaso will ensure Nigerians are carried along. He will ensure that he reschedules these loans and pay without burden.
“Domestic borrowing is an option, foreign facilities are also an option. No government can function maximally without borrowing. What you want to build will determine what you should borrow.
“If the chances are available, you can borrow locally. The strength of our currency must be considered when borrowing,” Agbo said, adding that every borrowing will be to be used for capital projects and not to pay salaries.
Speaking earlier, the chancellor, Incorporated Trustees Citizens Rights Aid And Control Initiative, Barr Godwin Ogboji, said loans are not supposed to be spent outside what it was taken for.
According to Igboji, party policies should be downplayed adding that the focus should be Nigerians when it comes to loans.
“Citizens should use the position of section 39 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended to ensure transparency and prudent management of foreign loans,” Ogboji said, adding that the presidential candidates must ensure the interest of Nigerians and Nigeria is protected when it comes to taking of loan and repayment.