Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has lent to the plethora of voices seeking debt cancellation for developing countries, including Nigeria.
Speaking on Friday at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Buhari said that developing countries have been carrying debts that are unsustainable even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of a new wave of deepening debt, where vital public financial resources are allocated to external debt servicing and repayments, at the expense of domestic health and financing for critical developmental needs,” he stated.
‘‘I must commend the current initiatives by the international financial institutions and the G20 aimed at significantly mitigating the economic situation of the indebted countries and urge for more efforts in this regard.
‘‘Therefore, there is an urgent need to consider expansion and extension of the debt service suspension initiative to include all developing, least developed countries and small island developing states facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.
‘‘In addition, a review of the eligibility criteria for debt suspension, including outright cancellation, is needed for countries facing the most severe challenges,’’ President Buhari concluded, pleading with rich nations and multilateral institutions.
President Buhari has been criticized, at home, for consistent borrowings. The most recent is the approval request which he sent to Nigeria’s National Assembly this September to borrow $4 billion and €710 million loan from bilateral and multilateral organizations to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget, and citing some “critical projects.”
Two months earlier, the National Assembly had approved an earlier request to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans, based on the initial 2018-2020 borrowing plan.
The president’s argument has been that Nigeria’s borrowings, under his administration, are for capital, not consumption, needs..
During his UNGA speech, President Buhari emphasized the need for fair and transparent trade, calling for a “universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable trade.”
Reminding that aid and debts provide no redeeming values to Africa’s development, President Buhari stated: ‘‘My country and indeed all African countries do not intend to stay indefinitely looking for aid. All we need is a fair and equitable system of international trade.’’