The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “provide details of spending of overdrafts and loans obtained from the CBN by successive governments between 1999 and 2015”.
The demand was made via a Freedom of Information request dated 6 March and signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s Deputy Director.
Also copied in the letter are Abukabar Malami (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); and Patience Oniha, Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO).
The civil society organisation also asked the president to provide spending details of the overdrafts and loans obtained from the CBN by the Federal Government since May 29, 2015, including the total overdrafts, the projects on which the overdrafts have been spent; and repayment of all overdrafts to date.
It also requested the Federal Government to clarify whether the $25 billion (N9.7 trillion) overdraft reportedly obtained from the CBN is within the five per cent limit of the actual revenue of the government for 2020.
According to the organisation, ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of CBN overdrafts and loans via public disclosure would promote prudence in debt management, reduce any risks of corruption and mismanagement, and help the government to avoid the pitfalls of excessive debt.
The letter partly read: “Disclosing details of CBN overdrafts and repayments would enable Nigerians to hold the government to account for its fiscal management and ensure that public funds are not diverted, thereby improving the ability of your government to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This means that the government would not have to choose between saving lives or making debt payments.
“The increasing level of public debt would threaten the ability of the government to invest in essential public goods and services, such as quality education, healthcare, and clean water. It is the primary responsibility of the government to ensure public access to these services in order to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
“The growing level of public debt would increase debt-servicing costs, which would mean that your government has less resources to spend on these critical public services.
“SERAP is concerned about the growing level of debts by the Federal Government, and the apparent lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of overdrafts and loans so far obtained from the CBN, as well as the repayments to date.
“Also, the recent overdraft of $25.6bn (about N9.7trn) obtained from the CBN would appear to be above the five-percent limit of the actual revenue of the Federal Government for 2020, that is, N3.9trn, prescribed by Section 38(2) of the CBN Act 2007. SERAP notes that five-percent of N3.9trn is N197bn.”
SERAP insisted that its request is in the public interest of the country, noting that the Federal Government should publicly disclose the information within 14 days of the publication of the letter or “the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request”.