By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the National Assembly to reject the fresh loan request of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Last week, at the resumption of plenary on the Senate after a break, Mr Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President, read a letter from Mr Buhari requesting to borrow $4 billion and €710 million.
But in a letter, SERAP said both chambers, the Senate and House of Representatives, should not grant this request until the publication of details of spending of all loans obtained since the Buhari-led administration took office on May 29, 2015.
In the open letter signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the group expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”
SERAP said: “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.”
According to SERAP, “Accumulation of excessive debts and unsustainable debt-servicing are inconsistent with the government’s international obligations to use the country’s maximum available resources to progressively achieve the realisation of economic and social rights, and access of Nigerians to basic public services.”
The letter read in part: “The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.
“SERAP urges you to urgently propose a resolution and push for a constitutional amendment on debt limit, with the intent of reducing national debt and deficits. This recommendation is entirely consistent with the constitutional oversight functions and spending powers of the National Assembly, and the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations.
“Indiscriminate borrowing has an effect on the full enjoyment of Nigerians’ economic and social rights. Spending a large portion of the country’s yearly budget to service debts has limited the ability of the government to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to minimal health care, education, clean water, and other human needs.
“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.
“The National Assembly under your leadership has a constitutional responsibility to urgently address the country’s debt crisis, which is exacerbated by overspending on lavish allowances for high-ranking public officials, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as the absence of political will to recover trillions of naira reported to be missing or mismanaged by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
“The National Assembly should stop the government from borrowing behind the people’s backs. Lack of information about details of specific projects on which loans are spent, and on loan conditions creates incentives for corruption, and limits citizens’ ability to scrutinise the legality and consistency of loans with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), as well as to hold authorities to account.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35 trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679 trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31 trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education.”
Heifer Gathers Stakeholders to Discuss Youth Empowerment
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
Agribusiness firm, Heifer Nigeria, in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), will hold a youth empowerment programme on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.
The event is mainly to gather stakeholders in the agriculture sector to discuss how youth could be given the necessary support to succeed in the industry.
The program, which is themed Youth and Technology: The Future of Africa’s Agriculture, will also serve as an avenue for key players to examine the various roles of youth and technology in the transformation and future of Nigeria’s agriculture.
It will be held for two days at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, and is in line with the 27th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) tagged Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now.
Speaking on the scheduled event, the Country Director, Heifer Nigeria, Mr Rufus Idris, noted that agriculture in Africa greatly relies on the shoulder of the youths which is in need of enhanced innovation to allow for a sustainable farming system among Africans.
“Heifer International is committed to supporting a business ecosystem that enables youths to drive innovation in the sector, growing their incomes through sustainable and scalable food, and farming practices.
“Leveraging technology and modern practices will create a pathway for Nigeria to increase productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector to curb food insecurity and poverty,” he averred.
According to the company, agriculture already accounts for about 35 per cent of employment in Nigeria, making the sector mature enough for innovation to become a major domestic employer.
Hence, the program will be an interactive session where youth innovators, incubators, farmers and agribusinesses, government agencies, and investors will converge to come up with innovative solutions with the potential of scaling Nigeria’s agricultural sector and strengthening food security across the nation.
Fashola Tasks States to Prioritize Housing Challenges
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has called on state governments to renew their commitment to housing development in order to increase access to affordable housing to the citizenry.
Mr Fashola made the call in his keynote address at the meeting of the States’ Commissioners responsible for housing matters during the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development held in Lagos State.
Speaking at the event themed Housing Development as a Catalyst for Job Creation, Social Inclusion and Economic Development, he explained that the inequality among the nations and people can be reduced drastically if the housing need of the poor is considerably addressed in the states.
“These are some of the reasons why I seek to persuade all of you to go back to your states to persuade your Governors to re-commit to housing development.
“I said re-commit because I am aware that many states are doing something, but you will agree that there is a scope to improve and scale-up.
“One reason why this will require an All of Government Action is the fact that land is a critical component of capital formation and it is controlled by the states.
“I am persuaded that appropriate, targeted and purposeful use of lands, such as for the development of housing by the states and private sector, will unleash prosperity in all states that aggregate to national prosperity,” Mr Fashola explained.
The Minister gave an example of Lagos State days of Lateef Jakande and added that the present Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu remained an example of what state governments could do to deepen housing supply and reap the benefits that come with it.
Mr Fashola stated that land and housing was a sub-national matter of jurisdictions, pointing out that what the states do to facilitate the processing of land titles, documentation, Certificate of Occupancy and other Geographic Information Services (GIS) details would go a long way in facilitating easy housing delivery.
He informed the meeting that the federal government was undertaking a National Housing Programme in 34 states aggregating to about 5,000 housing units, and trying to complete an inherited ministerial pilot housing scheme across the states which had a little over 6,000 units.
Mr Fashola said the decisions to recommit to housing development by state governments would facilitate the creation of a variety of jobs because the services of various professionals in the built industry such as town planners, architects would be required.
”Artisans like masons, plumbers, carpenters and food vendors will not be left out of the value chain of prosperity resulting from economic development.
“When construction actively starts, the economic explosion happens, supplies of sand, cement, reinforcements, roofing, plumbing, painting, and other components get to work.
“This drives a critical business in all our states, the micro small and medium enterprises who make or supply these building components,“ he said.
In the same vein, he explained that the Federal Housing Authority and Federal Mortgage Bank are also intervening as federal agencies in respective housing development directly through cooperative societies and the provision of development loans and mortgage loans.
In his remarks, Governor Sanwo-Olu, while assuring participants at the council of implementing the recommendations of the meeting, disclosed that the state had begun to implement the commendations agreed on at the 9th National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
On making land available for building by providing lands to build a mini-city at Imota in Ikorodu Division of Lagos State.
He said the state would develop about 3,500 housing units of 2 and 3 bedrooms in phases for civil servants and those in the informal sector, who fall within the category of low-income earners and to be acquired at a single-digit interest rate mortgage plan that could span a period of 15 years.
He added that his administration was determined to develop decent homes within the states as well as meet the housing needs of the citizens irrespective of their location.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, who said that homeownership was a vital tool for taking people out of poverty, assured the council that Lagos State would collaborate with the private sector to adopt the monthly rent payment as proposed by the Minister of Works and Housing.
In his vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary, FMWH, Mr Babangida Hussaini, commended the excellent leadership of the works and housing sectors.
He also noted the commitment of council members to the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development and urged them to go back and implement the council resolutions.
Group Reports Lagos Government to Buhari
By Mohammed Kerimu
The Shangisha/Magodo Landlords Association of Nigeria has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the refusal of the Lagos State Government to execute the ruling of the Supreme Court on the return of 549 plots of land to its original owners by the state.
In a document submitted to the Presidency and sighted by this reporter, the association expressed optimism that Mr Buhari would do justice to the matter he has demonstrated that a strong judiciary is a sine qua non for the operation and sustenance of democracy which he had vowed to defend.
The group further noted that since their story is similar to that of Mr President, who faced several denials in his electoral victories before God intervened in his fourth outing, he will finally lay their matter to rest since he was the Head of States about 37 years ago when they were forcefully evicted from their land.
It will be recalled that after its first judgement, the Supreme Court on March 1, 2016, again voiced out its displeasure with Lagos State Government and the state Chief Judge over their refusal to execute its earlier judgement; warning of the dangers it portends for the state to deliberately refuse to carry out its order concerning the Shangisha/Magodo land.
However, analysts are of the view that the refusal by the Lagos State Government to execute the judgement of the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land, is sending wrong signals to foreign investors who needed assurance of a strong judicial system before committing their resources for investment in the country.
They warned that if nothing was done to compel the state to toe the line of law and order, the country may be up for doom as no serious investor will consider a country with a weak legal system in their investment decisions.
Following the refusal of Lagos State to execute the ruling of the Supreme Court on the return of Shangisha/Magodo land which it forcefully acquired from its owners without building any public interest institution on it, the question many are asking is when did Lagos State secede from Nigeria that the ruling of the country’s apex court could no longer be binding on it?
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