Worried by the recent passage of the 2023 Supplementary Budget by the Nation Assembly, Open Alliance, a coalition of civil society organizations working to improve openness and accountability in government, on Monday challenged the Federal Government to immediately come clean on Nigeria’s updated debt data.
The Alliance, while expressing deep concern over the N2.17tr supplementary budget recently passed by the National Assembly, which it said is enough indication that the present administration does not care about the plight of suffering Nigerians. It specifically called for the current debt servicing situation, taking immediate steps to address the issue.
Rather than addressing urgent national issues, Open Alliance in a statement lamented that the budget line has raised substantial questions about the financial management and priorities of this current administration.
In a statement by Iyanu Bolarinwa, Open Alliance said it is “highly disappointed with the rate of reckless spending by this administration, which appears to lack a central focus on the welfare of the Nigerian people. We call upon the government to re-evaluate its priorities, ensuring that the needs and well-being of the citizens are at the centre of its policies and financial decisions” the statement added.
Nigeria, it continued, “is currently grappling with a significant debt burden. From our last 2023 available data, Nigeria’s external debt was already alarming at N33.25tr, with the cost of servicing this debt at N617.35bn —a major drain on the country’s resources.”
Many Nigerians, the group continued, “are still grappling with the harsh austerity measures this government has imposed on the people, with the cost of living skyrocketing and necessities becoming unaffordable. Common feeding has transformed into a luxury for the average Nigerian, and this dire situation is particularly pronounced among the vulnerable population of over 100 million Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty. The government must prioritize policies that alleviate the suffering of these citizens.
“The current food inflation, at 30%, is another critical concern. The rising prices of essential food items have made it increasingly difficult for ordinary Nigerians to put food on the table. The government must take decisive actions to address this issue by investing in agriculture, supporting local farmers, making the farms safe again, and tackling inflationary pressures.
“What is particularly disheartening is the apparent disregard for the financial plight of the average Nigerian. The supplementary budget allocating N1.5 billion for the office of the First Lady is not only a misallocation of resources but also unconstitutional. No law recognizes the office of the First Lady in Nigeria, and such expenditures only highlight the tone-deaf nature of this administration. Open Alliance condemns this allocation and calls for adherence to the laws and principles that govern Nigeria’s financial management.”
Worse still, Bolarinwa lament that “the supplementary budget gave not a single kobo to the health of Nigerians, this is highly disappointing, considering that it’s only a productive population that can contribute to the nation’s development. Historically, Nigeria has failed to meet the 15% budget allocated to health, “the Abuja declaration.”
Nigerians, the group said are, therefore, being told directly by the government “to cater for themselves as the Federal Government does see any urgency in addressing the current decay in the health sector in Nigeria.”
Members of the group included: Accountability Lab Nigeria; Budget Transparency and Accountability Initiative Nigeria (BTAN); BudgIT Foundation; Cedars for Human Welfare Initiative (CEHUWEI);
Centre for Peace Education and Community Development; Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE); Community Alliance for Good Governance; and Development & Integrity Intervention Goal Foundation (DIG Foundation). Others are: DigitalSENSE Africa; Engage Diaspora Foundation; Eyeeoma Development Initiative; Gee Foundation for Social Justice and Development (GFSJAD); Initiative for Social Development in Africa (iSODAF); Invictus Africa; Neighbourhood Environment Watch Foundation; Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI); The Meluibe Empowerment Foundation; Upline Centre for Development (UCD); and Youth Emancipation & Rehabilitation Foundation (YERF).
Open Alliance assured that it remained committed to advocating for accountability and responsible governance in Nigeria. We call upon the government to urgently address the issues raised in this statement and take immediate steps to alleviate the suffering of the Nigerian people. The welfare of the nation’s citizens must be the foremost concern in all government actions and decisions,.” the group stressed.