Judiciary

$29.9b loan: Court slates hearing of suit challenging Buhari

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court (FHC) 6, Abuja has fixed Friday, October 30, 2020 for the hearing of a suit challenging President Muhammadu Buhari from taking another loan of $29.96 billion.

Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the FHC sitting in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, had in January transferred the case to the FHC, Abuja for trial and determination since majority of the defendants in the suit resided in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

A human right lawyer and former Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ilesa Branch, Bar. Kanmi Ajibola had approached the court to stop President Buhari from borrowing additional $29.96 billion.

Besides, the lawyer who was in the court along Barristers Samuel Echeonwu and Musa Abdullahi also asked the National Assembly from approving the said loan pending the final determination of the suit.

Ajibola on Monday instituted a legal action seeking the mandate of the court to stop the National Assembly from approving the loan.

The Senate had recently referred President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing Plan request to its Committee on Local and Foreign Debts.

The Ministers of Finance, Zainab Ahmed had also declared that President Buhari-led Federal Government cannot stop borrowing to finance projects.

This is following the cry of many Nigerians who feel the current administration was already borrowing the future of the country.

Barrister Ajibola in an action filed before the FHC, against the respondents including the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Finance said they were not acting in the interest of Nigeria.

He argued that instead of developing the available resources in the country, the respondents were only seeking procurement of destructive loan.

Ajibola in a 58 paragraph affidavit in support of his motion ex-parte disclosed that he had on the 16th day of December 2019, written letters to the defendants requesting for some vital information but they failed to respond within the constitutionally stipulated time.

Some of the information demanded include details of Nigeria’s local and foreign debt profiles and the defrayment modalities, the list of all the FG projects being executed from the loans taken from 2015 to date, the financial cost of all executed projects from 2015 and the total sum of money recovered so far from the Late General Sani Abacha’s loot, if spent and what it was spent on.

Ajibola told the court that he requested the information to enable him take a step to rescue Nigeria, saying the Federal Government under the leadership of the respondents has failed Nigerians.

According to him, with the new foreign loan procurement, the respondents wanted to perpetually entrap Nigeria in a debt gulag and that they are planning to take the loan without putting in place an effective all-encompassing corruption check mechanism.

He further told the court that, “In 2016, the president presented a projected proposal for foreign loan for 2016 to 2018 in the sum of $29.96 billion to the Eight Senate for approval as required by the law, but the National Assembly rejected the proposal because it saw it as debt colonization by the would-be creditor banks, and it is capable of ‘sinking Nigeria into the dark gully of perpetual debt trap.’

 “The 1st to 3rd respondents, among others, took oaths of office to discharge their duties to the best of their abilities, faithfully and in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being, and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“It is the duty of the FG and the respondents to control the National Economy in such manner as it will secure the maximum welfare, freedom, and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity. The respondents have failed in this duty.

“The effect of taking a foreign loan for economic stimulus infrastructure in a very corrupt system as we have in Nigeria is always counterproductive, besides that, the debt servicing will grossly suppress the effect of such borrowings, this is too harmful to the economic growth of any country in the world.

Ajibola expressed worry that both the President and that National Assembly swore to provide good governance, but contrary to the oaths of office of the respondents, “they are not faithful to the said oaths”, Ajibola argued.

When the matter came up for hearing on Friday, October 2, Justice Abang noted that in view of the importance of the suit, he continue its hearing on October 30 while urging counsel in the matter to prepare relevant papers before the court.    

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