The recent move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) to probe state Governors in the country over the diversion of the Paris Club loans refund has been described as a right step in the right direction by the anti-graft body.
Making this known on Thursday, the Head of National Advocacy of Social Action Nigeria, Mrs Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor however emphasized that it is imperative that the EFCC initiates similar probe into past loans obtained by the country in the past two decades and beyond.
Bellonwu-Okafor made the call while reacting to the recent moves by the EFCC to launch investigation into the utilization of the Paris Club refunds by state governors in the country.
She stated that until concrete actions are taken against the endemic corruption embedded in public loan processes in Nigeria, loans will continue to serve as a verifiable means of self-aggrandizement by few positioned public officials while debt burden will continue to land and indeed increase on the neck of ordinary Nigerian masses.
According to her, “Nigeria paid heavily to exit the debt club (London and Paris Clubs) in 2005. With an approximate $15billion paid to the clubs in a controversial debt buy-back deal that saw the country painfully paying more than ten times what was actually borrowed. This is even when there was practically nothing on ground to point to what these staggering sums of money taken as loans were used for.
“Again with the reconciling of account by the Federal and state government and refund of extra deductions to states from the Paris Club payment, the federal government had expressly charged states to strictly prioritize the refund to defrayment of salary and pension arrears. This apt advice came at a time many states were owing workers as much as six months’ salary and pension arrears”.
Going further, the Social Action Head noted that, “it is very painful to hear reports and in fact see that many state governors did divert these funds instead of applying it rightly as they have been urged. This awful act thus continues to worsen the hardships faced by millions of workers and worse still aged and retired workers”.
She also held that “this attitude is not different from the manner in which loans have been treated. Which accounts for Nigerians only learning that their country is indebted to the tune of billions of dollars (that indeed increases year after year) without anything to show for it.The worth of any nation is indeed informed by the value it places on its ordinary citizens”.
Bellonwu-Okafor urged the EFCC not to sweep the matter under the carpet but deploy all its capacity to probe and patriotically make public the outcome of its investigation on public loans and the Paris Club Refunds, adding that it will help hold trust violators to account as well as check the corrupt tendencies of some elected public officials.