The Debt Management Office (DMO) put the nation’s debt stock as at March, 31st, 2020 at $27.67 billion. It comprises of loans from World Bank Group, IBRD, African Development Bank, AGTF, IFAD, China (Exim Bank of China), France, Japan (JICA), India (Exim Bank of India), Germany, among others. The debt rose from $10.32bn as at June 30, 2015.
In a report by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), the second attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to secure National Assembly approval for $30 billion dollars loan earlier rejected by the 8th National Assembly in 2016, by seeking approval of the National Assembly for a $29.96 billion dollars loan, saying the external loan was targeted to fund projects across all sectors with an emphasis on infrastructure. Approving this loan will jerk the nation’s external debt portfolio to $57.8 billion.
The ICIR reported that President Buhari inherited a national foreign debt of $10.3 billion in June 2015 from the immediate past administration but by 30th June 2016, the nation’s loan rose to $11.3 billion dollars, representing 9.2 per cent increase in the debt of the country.
Similarly by June 2017, the debt grew from $11.3 billion to $15.0 billion (33.6 per cent), As at 2018, it skyrocketed to $22.1 billion dollars (46.8 per cent) and at the end of the 2nd quarter of 2019, Nigeria’s external debt increased to $27.8 billion dollars (23.0 per cent increase in the year). Therefore, between June 30, 2015, and June 30, 2019, the nation’s foreign debt accumulated by 163. 2 per cent.
Aside the ICIR, The Guardian, a major newspaper in the reported that of Nigeria’s $93.285 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between 2013 and first quarter of 2020, the South-East zone got the least, amounting to a paltry $203,898,690 million and representing just less than one percent (0.22%) of the total investments.
According to the newspaper, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a breakdown from a seven-year period showed that Enugu State has $151.490 million (2014) FDI; Abia, $9.710 million; Imo, $3.5 million (2015 and 2019); Anambra, $38.091 million; while Ebonyi state had none within the period.
It also stated that comparative figures from NBS showed that within the same period capital importation to the South-West was $81,808,183,342.05 (87.70%;); South-South, $470,688,204.67 (0.50%); North-Central, $10,732,800,098.87 (11.51%); North-East, $ 39,414,980.00 (0.04%); and North-West, $29,959,790 (0.03%).
Aside blaming the South-East of unfavourable investment/business climate, it stated that “the zone is not ranked well on the World Bank’s Sub-national Ease of Doing Business and on the AfriHeritage’s Business Environment and Competitiveness across Nigerian States (BECANS)”.
It reported that the “South-East does not have a functioning and operational industrial cluster and blamed it on the South-East Governors’ Forum Secretariat, which it quoted as being more political than it should be.
The Guardian harps on the need for the region to develop the dry ports and the free economic zones approved by the Federal Government, push for the dredging of River Niger to allow ferrying of goods with smaller ships and to develop an industrialization plan.
It is instructive that of all the foreign and even domestic debt stock, projects to be executed with the loan in the South-East remains the least. Recently, the South-East Governors Forum and Forum of South-East Legislators at the National Assembly, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other well-meaning personalities from the zone have risen with one voice, condemning obvious marginalization of the zone by the Federal Government. Of the projects listed to benefit from the loans sought by the federal government, the zone got the least.
Just last month, The AUTHORITY had reported how the Federal Government successively marginalized the zone in the listing of projects, including the power project described as Nigerian Electricity Roadmap: Technical and Commercial Proposal, to be executed in partnership with Siemens AG of Germany. Structured in three phases: quick win, remaining network bottlenecks and last mile generation capacities, the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) was clearly almost left out and captured under phase two of the project with only two projects to be cited in Enugu. The remaining four states served by the EEDC, have no single project under this huge power modernization programme.
In contrast, Kaduna Disco has 23 projects, Kano Disco has 13 projects, Ibadan Disco has 440 projects. This is at a time it was discovered that the zone barely benefited from the over $27 billion external loan of the Federal Government.
Since the marginalization of the South-East zone has become an national anthem, we at The AUTHORITY advises the governors of the zone, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and well-meaning Igbo leaders to adopt the “Gospel” of the former Governor of Anambra State, Okwadike Chukwuemeka Ezeife, to “Think Home”. The zone should take its destiny in its hands and fully implement the South-East Development Zone Agenda of the zone to the letter. If the governors and leaders of the zone come together and shun all divisive tendencies and pull their resources together, they should be able to turn around the negative assessment of the World Bank and create conducive business environment that would attract both local and foreign investors. They should also put more than passing interest in the security of life and property in the zone, but fully deploying the church and traditional institutions towards galvanizing a more secure environment across the zone. This is possible by paying greater emphasis to activities of the Forest Guard and Vigilante Services already set up in the almost all the states in the zone.
This will help ward off external aggression being experienced through herdsmen whose kidnapping and robbery activities have worsened the security situation in parts of the country, including the South-East zone. Since it appears the Police and other security agencies are overwhelmed by the alarming insecurity in the country, local vigilante should fill in the gaps and ensure that security is guaranteed across the zone.
If they do so, what the zone lack in Federal presence and project, would be gained through peace, home-grown development agenda and prosperity of the people. After all, with all the problems suffered by the people of the zone after the Civil War, the people galvanized themselves and established what had become the most vibrant, people-oriented, home-grown development initiative globally. These can be repeated, while efforts are made to see to the end or curtailment of marginalization by the Federal Government.