The Federal Government must make full public disclosure of all loans obtained by the country, Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond said in a statement released on Sunday.
ASCAB said it would challenge the authorities in court if the disclosures were not made.
The group urged the National Assembly to reveal the terms and conditions of all external loans.
It said if the National Assembly fails, the Debt Management Office should publish the terms and conditions of all external loans or face legal fireworks.
The coalition of labour and some 80 civil society groups lamented that Nigeria’s debt profile, which was N12.118 trillion as at May 2015, has leaped to N27.401 trillion in 2019, representing more than 100 per cent debt increase, adding that by 2020, it has seen astrological surge in the country’s external debts.
The group in a statement signed by its Chairman, Femi Falana, (SAN); Co-Chairmen: President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and President of the Trade Union Congress, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, said recent revelation at the National Assembly has confirmed the fact that the loans were taken without proper public scrutiny.
It said this was why a Committee of the House of Representatives feigned ignorance of the terms and conditions attached to a particular loan agreement.
ASCAB said the huge debt being incurred for country has the potential of stifling the prospect of economic liberation and political freedom of the people.
The group said within one year, the National Assembly has approved a total of $28 billion for President Muhammadu Buhari with no commensurate improvement in the quality of lives of many Nigerians.
It said: “Millions of Nigerians continue to face harsh economic difficulties, lacking access to basic needs, yet the debt profile of the country continues to increase. It is even more grievous that the Government continues to take loans on behalf of the people without their consent neither their keen understanding of the terms.”
ASCAB said the National Assembly appears desperate to pull the wool over the face of Nigerians by covering up its tracks regarding the clause in the Chinese loan.
“The opaque nature of the loans is against the principles of the Nigerian constitution,” ASCAB said, citing Section 21(1) of the Debt Management Office Establishment (ETC) Act, 2003 (DMO Act), which states that no external loan shall be approved or obtained by the Minister “unless its terms and conditions shall have been laid before the National Assembly and approved by its resolution.”
The group also cited Section 41 (1a) of the FRA, which states: “Government at all tiers shall only borrow for capital expenditure and human development, provided that, such borrowing shall be on concessional terms with low interest rate and with a reasonable long amortization period subject to the approval of the appropriate legislative body where necessary.”
The coalition said the National Assembly breached the provisions of section 21 (1) of the Debt Management Office Establishment (ETC) Act, 2003.
“Instead of grandstanding over the matter, the members of the National Assembly ought to apologise to the Nigerian people and proceed to scrutinise the terms and conditions of all other external loans,” ASCAB said.
The loans taken by Nigeria from China raised public outcry last week when a clause that was alleged to have compromised Nigeria’s sovereignty was discovered.
According to the Debt Management Office, the total value of loans taken by Nigeria from China as at March 31, 2020 was $3.121 billion, an indication that the Chinese loan is some 3.94 per cent of Nigeria’s total public debt of $79.303 as at March 31, 2020, while external sources of funds, loans from China accounted for 11.28 per cent of the external debt profile of $27.67 at the same date.
The loans were obtained with interest rates of 2.5 per cent per annum, to be paid in 20 years with moratorium of seven years.
The coalition said it is important to ask whether Nigeria really needed the jumbo loans when sources of boosting public funds are either yet to be fully explored or completely ignored
It said: “The most fundamental issue is whether we really need these jumbo loans. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Nigeria directed the federal government to recover royalties which were not paid for 18 years by the multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria. The said royalties have been confirmed to be $62 billion.
“But a serving Minister in the Buhari administration has said that $62 billion cannot be collected from the IOCs.”
Making reference to Section 12 (1) of the Constitution which states that Treaties between the Federation and any other country shall have not the force of law unless domesticated and enacted into law by the National Assembly, ASCAB said the National Assembly has failed to enact laws to back the loans, thereby questioning the legal framework of the process.
ASCAB listed some of the loans collected by the government to include the February 2018 Eurobond worth $2.5 billion, September 2018 loan of $328 million, $5.3 billion from Chinese Export Import Bank, $2.36 billion to finance aspects of the 2020 Budget, while another $5.513 billion was sought to finance the 2020 revised budget.
The Senate had also approved N850 billion and another $22.79 billion for President Buhari currently pending at the parliament.
ASCAB warns the National Assembly to desist from approving loans for payment of the unapproved salaries of legislators and scandalous pension of ex-governors as they contravene section 41 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which has restricted Governments at all levels to “borrow for capital expenditure and human development”.
The group added: “The country’s level of poverty continues to increase with the skyrocketing loans obtained by the Federal Government. Poverty, extreme hunger, frivolous lifestyle of public office holders continue to fuel violence and public disorder across the country. Why the government has responded effectively to the needs of public officials including members of the National Assembly, the economic and social needs of the people remain a mirage.”