A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi said no money borrowed under his government will be spent on unproductive ventures.
Obi has over time criticized President Muhammadu Buhari’s borrowing while defending his ambition to turn around Nigeria’s ailing economy by 2023.
In March, the Debt Management Office said Nigeria’s indebtedness as of December 2021 was $38.39bn, with $11.97bn owed the World Bank and $3bn from China.
Economic experts such as the Nigerian Economic Summit Group have faulted Buhari’s the use of the loans sourced from bilateral and multilateral lenders.
“What did we borrow the money to do? What is more important than power generation in this country? What is more important than equipping and supporting our military to make sure we provide security? So what did we borrow the money to do?” Obi said on Arise TV on Monday.
He added, “I want to know. They just say it is infrastructure, I went to Abeokuta yesterday and the road is still being worked on. Since I came to Lagos, they are still working on that road.”
Obi explained that he will handle borrowing differently from the way the current government is doing.
He said, “I will do it differently. Nigerians will know the reason for borrowing and it must be borrowed for production. Nobody will spend a kobo or a dime from borrowed money for consumption.
“Instead, we will not start. That is why I have told everybody there is nothing to share again, we must rebuild this country for the future of our children.”
The current administration had defended the borrowing which it claimed was channeled into building of roads and rails.
Buhari had in 2020 defended his borrowing spree saying he borrows for infrastructure.
“We have so many challenges with infrastructure. We just have to take loans to do roads, rail and power, so that investors will find us attractive and come here to put their money,” he was quoted as telling members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
Aside Nigeria’s debt quagmire, the former Anambra governor also said Nigerian banks are not doing enough to salvage the unemployment nightmare in the country.
According to him, Nigeria is not a productive economy, adding that there is no proper implementation of policies.
Nigeria is currently experiencing an unemployment level which the National Bureau of Statistics put at 33.3 per cent.
“The country is not productive. What the country is producing today is poverty. You could see from the level of unemployment.
“In 2016, 61 million Nigerians were employed, today it is only about 36 million when the actual rate of people who are supposed to be working is 120 million.”
He said the first approach to reducing the rate of unemployment is to support and fund Micro Small and Medium Enterprises.
According to him, 20 per cent to 30 per cent of government borrowing should be spent on funding youth and women SMEs.
Obi said, “You need to aggressively empower and support women in this sector. If you look at our lending today, our total bank lending is about N30trn, only about 5 per cent; N1.5trn goes to MSMEs and that is not even true. I can tell you it is below that.
“No country can survive with that. You need at least 20 to 30 per cent. Your major productive assets are the youths, they are very creative, but they lack funding and guidance.
“So you must design a proper way of funding this particular sector which should not be less than 20-30 per cent of our lending today.
“In fact, the money that you are borrowing and throwing away, 20 to 30 per cent of it should be diverted to them.”