Mallam Hamzat Lawal, the Chief Executive Officer of Connected Development (CODE), has revealed why his organisation and another civic establishment, BudgIT, wrote the World Bank concerning the $ 800 million loan sought by the Nigerian government.
The Federal Government had in April announced its plan to secure the World Bank loan to be disbursed to about 50 million vulnerable Nigerians or 10 million households as part of its fuel
The move caused outrage in the country, considering the mounting debt profile of the Buhari administration.
Speaking on Hard Copy, an interview programme on Channels Television, Mallam Lawal noted that the government’s decision not to carry along other stakeholders was in bad taste.
”It was a shock. It was surprising that there was little dialogue between civil society, government, and even other partners on specifically what this money would be achieved with.
”It created that very toxic environment in the digital and mainstream media space, and that’s why, as civic organisations, we (CODE and BudgIT) jointly reached out to the World Bank just trying to understand what the money will be used for.
”I think the National Assembly must rise to the occasion because if they grant that approval today, the World Bank will disburse. The National Assembly should use its powers to call for a public hearing.
”It would also help to ensure that all the grey areas are answered and Nigerians can understand specifically what this money would be used for.
I don’t expect them to expedite action and approve this $800 million loan.”
Speaking on whether the loan is necessary, Mallam Lawal said: “Taking a loan is not a bad thing, but what do we do with this loan? People are poor. We also need to be clear that people that were in the middle class in 2019 are now poor.
”Because, when you look at the impact of COVID-19, recession, and even inflation that we are experiencing, so, yes, we need to support poor people, but my worry is how do we go about it so there are no leakages.
”We have poor people, it is not their doing that they are poor. And as a government, as people, we must care for these poor people.
”The Conditional Cash Transfer scheme was largely successful, and people benefitted from it because it actually increased enrollment in schools. But, when you talk about COVID, the government failed.
”Up till now, they cannot tell us what they did with the COVID money and who benefitted from it.
”That’s why for me, it is about closing these gaps and leakages beyond collecting $800 million. It is only $800 million that we know about, but there are other interventions, and loans that government would collect and have been collecting that are not in the public domain.
”So, it is how do we put in place mechanisms that curbs corruption and those leakages and these monies won’t end up in personal pockets.”
He advised that the Open Government Partnership platform can be explored to ensure transparency in government spending.
His words: ”We have the Open Government Partnership that brings together civil society, media, and government, and it is being co-chaired by government and civil society.
”It’s just for us to have this robust conversation and even for the government to agree, and then we set a timeline. This is not rocket science. This is public money given to you based on public trust.
”Today, most government data are not public, and most of the ones public, are not measurable. This must change, because, no how good a government policy is, if the Nigerian people don’t buy into it, it will never be successful.”