Atiku on $29.6bn loan request: I can’t sit and watch Buhari squander our children’s future.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar says he cannot sit and watch the government of President Muhammadu Buhari “ruin the future of Nigerians” with his $29.6 billion loan request.

Buhari had asked the senate to approve the loan, saying oil earnings are no longer enough to meet the financial needs of the country.

On Monday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the loan request will be approved despite the senate’s decline of a similar request under Bukola Saraki in 2016.

But in an article wrote on Tuesday, Atiku criticised the loan request, describing it is an act of irresponsibility.

The former vice president said he and former President Olusegun Obasanjo worked to clear Nigeria’s foreign debt after the return of democracy in 1999 and he would not allow any government to “plunge Nigeria into another debt”.

He said the problem of Nigeria is not the lack of money but the inability of Nigerians to make the right leadership decisions.

“The fact that Nigeria currently budgets more money for debt servicing (₦2.7 trillion), than we do on capital expenditure (₦2.4 trillion) is already an indicator that we have borrowed more money than we can afford to borrow. And the thing is that debt servicing is not debt repayment. Debt servicing just means that we are paying the barest minimum allowable by our creditors,” the article read.

“And while spending 50% of our current revenue on debt servicing, this administration wants to take further loans of $29.6 billion! To say that this is irresponsible is itself an understatement.

“President Olusegun Obasanjo and I paid off this nation’s debt, and I will not stand idly by and watch while Nigeria is plunged into second slavery by those who only know how to reap where they have not sown.”

Atiku said the Buhari’s government can derive the loan it seeks to borrow without plunging the country into more debt, adding that what is required is “visionary leadership and business acumen”.

The former vice president said if the government could deploy Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO strategy to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the amount of loan in consideration will be derived and foreign direct investment will increase.

“In my economic blueprint, I said that rather than turn in regular losses (which it has consistently been doing), the best thing to do with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is to reform it. Of course, the administration’s paid propagandists went into overdrive, accusing me of planning to sell the NNPC to my friends,” he said.

“But just last week, Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO, the most profitable company in the world, took that route and almost broke the global stock market with the most successful initial IPOs in world history, bar none. Ironically, Saudi Aramco raised $29.4 billion via this IPO. Just the amount this administration wants to borrow.

“That could have been Nigeria’s story, but for our failure of leadership. By reforming the NNPC, Nigeria can raise the $29.6 billion the Buhari regime wants to borrow, and we will raise the money without going into debt.”

Atiku noted that Ghana and Rwanda are now attracting more foreign direct investment when compared to Nigeria. He said the country’s problem is neither revenue, nor Nigerians, but a problem of leadership.

He also condemned the government’s plan to use part of the loan on the digitization of the Nigerian Television Authority and other similar projects.

Atiku called on Nigerian youth “to identify the Senator representing their senatorial zones and write to them, urging them to vote against this request.”

“I was part of a team that paid off Nigeria’s entire foreign debt. I, therefore, cannot sit and watch an administration without vision squander our children’s future by taking and wasting loans that they do not even have the capacity to utilise properly,” he wrote.

“Our youth must have something better to inherit from us than unsustainable debt fuelled by insatiable greed. That is why I call on the Senate of the National Assembly to show loyalty to Nigeria and reconsider its decision with regards to approving Buhari’s $29.6 billion loan request.”

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