Nigeria may be in to another episode of debt overhang – Obasanjo

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Nigeria may be in to another episode of debt overhang  – Obasanjo
By; Bayo Akamo, Ibadan.

Former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has warned, Nigeria may be on its way to another episode of debt overhang if the current fiscal challenge in the country is not creatively addressed

Chief Obasanjo handed down the warning in Ibadan while speaking at an inauguration conference with the theme, “Getting Government To Work For Development And Democracy In Nigeria: Agenda for Change” organized by the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP).
The former President said, “the drastic fall in the price of oil in the international market has unraveled the weakness of governance in Nigeria.”
According to the former President, for example, the Minister of Finance recently announced that the 2016 Budget deficit may be increased from the current N2.2 trillion in the draft document before the National Assembly, to N3 trillion due to decline in the price of crude oil”.

“If the current fiscal challenge is not creatively addressed Nigeria may be on its way to another episode of debt overhang which may not be good for the country. It will be recalled that  a few years ago we rescued Nigeria from its creditors with the deal in which the Paris Club of sovereign creditors wrote off USD 18 billion of debt, Africa’s largest debt cancellation,” he said.

Chief Obasanjo who stressed that the massive scale of poverty and unemployment, the decay in infrastructural facilities, the impoverished living standards of citizens with regard to food, housing, water supply, education and healthcare which have deepened in recent years  worsened the situation declared that “this is complicated by the protracted experience of violence and brutality, the flow of internally displaced persons arising from the Boko Haram insurgency in large parts of North Eastern Nigeria where many citizens have become distressed, live in fear and insecurity”.

“Recent developments in governance show the failure of systems, the disregard for institutional processes and the general decline of institutions that used to function to guarantee reasonable service delivery to citizens.”

He however maintained that the time has come for Nigerian leaders to be committed to change for the country could witness any meaningful change, adding, that the “problem today is that it is doubtful if the current administrative system is imbued with right mix of skills and values to successfully implement a well-articulated programme of change”.

“It is clear that change don’t just happen, there must be a basis for change. It is delightful that this initiative is coming at this moment when the country is in search of new ways of doing things given the crisis of governance that now manifests in vigorous ways”.

Speaking further, he noted that many years ago, he identified corruption as the greatest single bane of our society and as one of the worst legacies of misrule and bad governance leading to the setting up of the ICPC and the EFCC to tackle it head on. He stressed that “today, corruption drains billions of dollars from our economy that cannot afford to lose even a million dollars”.

“Now, given these governance challenges and our experience with reform, it is clear that change don’t just happen, there must be a basis for change. Leadership has to be committed to change. Beginning with the reality of the budget, there is need for sober reflection,” he said.

Chief Obasanjo while stressing that Nigeria must address the issue of employment among its teeming population particularly for our youths, noted that “rebuilding the foundations of governance involved paying attention to values, principles and practices that promote hard work, innovation and sacrifice.

“Leaders who call for sacrifice from the citizenry cannot be living in obscene opulence. We must address these foundational issues to make the economy work, to strengthen our institutions, build public confidence in government and deal with our peace and security challenges.
“Leadership must mentor the young, and provide them with hope about their future as part of a process of intergenerational conversation”.

Delivering his keynote address, a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; Chief Emeka Anyaoku called for total restructuring of the system of governance to meet the present challenges, pointing out that the high cost of governance is having negative effects on the system which has made many states of the federation financially handicapped.

Chief Anyaoku said presently, many states are owing workers, many are finding it difficult to pay salaries even the agreed 18,000 minimum wage.

The former Commonwealth scribe declared that the misplace of priorities where little money is used to finance capital projects while large percentage is used for recurrent is not only condemnable but inimical for the growth and progress of the country.

He urged the leaders to embrace the type of federalism that worked for countries like Canada, Australia and United States of America (USA) where unity is surely for diversity.

The Guest Speaker, Professor Richard Joseph of John Evans, a Professor of International History and Politics, speaking on the topic “State and Democratic Development in Africa: The Nigerian Challenge”, urged Nigerian leaders to ensure provision of basic amenities for the citizens in a bid to promote good governance.

The Chairman, Board of Governors, ISGPP, Professor Akin Mabogunje in his opening remarks declared that the school was formed to serve as a network for debate among governments, NGOs, academia, business and individuals.

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