Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, on Friday, hit the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari for ceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China just like the Ugandan government inadvertently did.
HURIWA in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, slammed Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, for begging the Chinese government to fast-track the approval of $500 million loan for the digitisation of state-owned television, NTA and other needless projects.
The group expressed its concerns over Nigeria’s indebtedness, particularly to China, and other foreign countries. It described as alarming and outrageous, the announcement by the Debt Management Office on Thursday that Nigeria’s total public debt stock increased to N39.56tn in 2021 from N32.92tn in 2020. This means that in the last seven years under Buhari, the country’s debt rose by about N26tn.
The group recalled that last year, an Ugandan newspaper, Daily Monitor, reported that some provisions in the agreement for the $200 million Chinese loan the East African country obtained to expand its Entebbe International Airport, if not amended, exposed the country’s only international airport and other government assets to potential attachments and possible takeover by China upon arbitration awards in Beijing.
Also, in 2021, fears similarly emerged in Kenya that China would seize the Port of Mombasa if the country defaults on loans procured to finance the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The unending loans from the Chinese government and others is becoming worrisome and there is a need for an immediate embargo by the National Assembly on further approvals.
“The Buhari government must stop ceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China through unbridled loans. Also, the Chinese and other creditor nations and agencies must stop forthwith from dishing out frivolous loans to the current government that has less than a year to go.
“Foreign nations must know that for seven years since he has been in government, Buhari kept accumulating these loans with no accountability and transparency on the deployment of the loans for any specific initiatives.
“It is evidently clear that government officials are frittering and siphoning the cash that comes in from the multilateral or bilateral loans that have now made us a heavily indebted nation just few years after the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo through now Director General of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, got us exited from the chain of loans.
“Unfortunately, we are back as a heavily indebted nation and sadly this government wanted to play a fast one of creditor by using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to beg for debts pardon when the same government has practically nothing to show for these humongous amounts borrowed. The bogus claims made so far by government on the use of these loans are dubious and can’t be verified.”