Communique Issued at the End of a Two-Day National Conference on Debt and Development
Being the Communique Issued at the End of a Two-Day National Conference on Debt and Development with the theme: Repositioning Nigeria for a Debt-Free Africa held Monday, 25th – 26th of September 2023, at the Bolton White Hotel, Area 11 Garki, Abuja Nigeria.
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), in collaboration with African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, convened a two-day national conference on debt and development with the theme: “Repositioning Nigeria for a debt -free Africa” at the Bolton White Hotel, Abuja from 25-26 September 2023. The African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Nigeria and the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), Harare, Zimbabwe have been partnering on the issue of debt and development for over two decades to address the debt crisis in the African co
National debt conferences have been held by AFRODAD and partners across Africa in the months of July and August 2023. It is for this reason that the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice organized a two-day Nigeria National Debt Conference which held from 25-26 September, 2023 in Abuja.
Furthermore, there have been some specific proposals on strategies to resolve the debt crisis of developing countries. These include: the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), the Common Framework for Debt Treatment (CF) beyond DSSI, the Bridgetown Initiative that gave rise to SDR disbursements, and the Paris Finance Meeting, amongst others. All of these and more were covered by the Abuja National Debt Conference with the following pillars adapted from AfCoDD III within the ‘4Rs’- Reimagine, Rethink, Re-organize and Re-mobilize for an African World Order. The objective of the conference was to engage in policy dialogue and information and knowledge sharing on how to deal with Nigeria’s development finance challenges amid multiple crises facing the country. Specifically, the conference provided opportunities to engage debt management stakeholders in Nigeria, including parliamentarians, the executive wing of government (Debt Management Office, on Nigerian debt management concerns), to:
- review current state of indebtedness in Nigeria;
- extensively evaluate Nigeria’s debt sustainability indicators;
- review, discuss and draw lessons from previous debt reports on Nigeria; and
- share stakeholders’ perspectives on how to effectively manage Nigeria’s debts.
The meeting had in attendance participants representing a wide-range of civil society organisations (CSOs) across Nigeria. The meeting also had in attendance representatives of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), relevant ministries, departments and agencies with mandates on debt management.
After exhaustive deliberations, the following observations were made by participants:
- The posture of transparency and accountability demonstrated by the Government in the loans and debts management is (of great concern) quite worrying.
- The shortfall in revenues of the government has led Nigeria to various uncoordinated borrowings.
- There is a complicity between the international creditors and our leaders in the debt contraction, wherein the borrowed monies are hardly used for projects that can repay the loans.
- Debt servicing obligations have negatively impacted the fiscal capability of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and contribute to the attainment of Climate goals of the Paris Agreement.
- Given the growing calls for a new World Order, there is an urgent need for Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa, to be repositioned to provide leadership for the rest of Africa on debt related matters.
- Africa’s huge debt burden is the prevailing phase of neocolonialism, more than ordinary debt but a subtle way to control Africa and keep them under perpetual slavery (economic and political subjugation).
- There is a need to block all financial leakages in government spending in order to reduce corruption attributed to the borrowing for development and capital projects.
- There is a need for Nigerian national and sub-national leaders to have a change of orientation, and reduce cost of governance in order to have sustained borrowing plans.
- There is the need for Nigeria and Africa governments to engage in responsible borrowing and investment that will lead to inclusive development just as we expect creditors to embark on responsible lending to African countries.
- The allocation of the 2021 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to Africa was too small for Africa to address her developmental and climate crisis.
- There are obvious capacity needs for state officials and CSOs in terms of the requisite technical knowledge and ability required to effectively and efficiently implement and engage on issues of debt management and monitoring.
- There are strong concerns amongst CSOs and citizens on the integrity of the current framework for the management of loans by the government earmarked to be channeled into the key infrastructures that hardly have impact on the citizenry.
- There is no synergy between the government and CSOs on debt contraction and management.
In the light of the above observations, participants made the following recommendations:
- That there is a need to ensure transparency and accountability on the contraction, use and management of borrowed funds in the country.
- That there is a need for the government at all levels to harness the abundant natural resources in the country to raise the revenue profile of the country, as well as engage in aggressive domestic resource mobilization by expanding the tax net to cover more people in the country.
- That debt negotiation should be done in an open and inclusive manner by involving experts on debt issues, including the civil society and other stakeholders.
- Conditionalities attached to some loans need to be reviewed before being approved so that it will not turn into more liabilities for beneficiaries. Also strengthening of the public finance management initiatives with clear conditionality before taking any loans will give room to track the loans at the sub-national levels to have clear information on the utilization.
- That there should be a general new global debt authority because Nigeria is rich in resources which can easily be swapped for debt relief.
- There should be an implementation of the key principles of African Borrowing Charter for sustainable utilization of the loans through engagement in sustained key advocacy messages, such as “End to Fresh Debts in Nigeria”
- Nigerian government should carry out a cost benefit analysis of any borrowing to meet the expected outcomes of such loans, and that loans should be able to be repayable.
- Governments at all levels should cut waste and reduce the cost of governance to free resources for developmental needs. A starting point would be to reduce the salaries of political officeholders and some categories of civil servants.
- That Nigerian government should obey its own laws on borrowing and debt contracting, particularly the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Participants recommend that the law should be respected and that violators should be sanctioned appropriately.
- We call for urgent rechannel of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to developing countries who need them more to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate commitments because more SDRs were allocated to countries that do not need them.
- We call for capacity building of State officials managing our debts, parliamentarians involved in oversight and Civil Society Actors involved in advocacy and monitoring of debts.
- We demand greater commitment of government to partner with relevant stakeholders, especially CSOs who undertake advocacy on debt management to review our borrowing plans to attain Sustainable Development Goals.
- Participants recommend the establishment of a CSO liaison office in the Debt Management Office (DMO) for a harmonious working relationship with the DMO.
Participants expressed their appreciation to ANEEJ and AFRODAD for convening the meeting. Stakeholders fully demonstrated readiness to collaborate with all stakeholders on issues of debt management for sustainable development as a tool to increase infrastructural development in Nigeria.
Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)
African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD)
21st Century Community Empowerment Initiatives
Center for Social Justice
Good Governance Team
Gender and Development Action (GADA)
Community Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI)
OGP Co-Chair Bauchi
Family Welfare Foundation
Citizens Centre for Justice, Leadership & Peace
Initiative for Grassroot Advocacy
Civil Empowerment & Rule of Law Support Initiative, CERLSI
Centre for Advocacy
Publish What You Pay Nigeria
Keen and Care Initiative
New Apostolic Centre for Development (NCD)
Poverty Alleviation Advocacy and Justice Initiative
Basic Rights Watch
Center for Advocacy