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Saturday, July 13, 2024

₦121.67trn Debt: SERAP Asks Inspection Panel To Hold World Bank To Account

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel urging the Panel “to probe allegations of corruption in the spending of the loans and other funding facilities obtained by the Federal Government and Nigeria’s 36 state governors and to review the implementation of all Bank-funded projects by successive governments since 1999.”

SERAP urged the Inspection Panel “to determine the extent to which Bank Management has followed or is following the World Bank’ s operational policies and procedures applicable to the design, appraisal and implementation of all Bank-financed projects in Nigeria.”

SERAP also urged the Panel “to determine the effect of any failure by the Bank Management to effectively implement its operational policies and procedures in all Bank-funded projects in several states on the social and economic rights and well-being of millions of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.”

SERAP’s complaint followed the Debt Management Office (DMO)’s report last week, that Nigeria’s total public debt stock, including external and domestic debts, increased by ₦24.33 trillion in three months alone, from ₦97.34 trillion ($108.23 billion) in December 2023 to ₦121.67 trillion ($91.46 billion) as of March 31, 2024.

In the letter dated 22 June 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The World Bank has over the years reportedly approved 197 projects for Nigeria, totalling over $36 billion in loans and other funding facilities [that is, $36,360,415,968.81], with little or no impact on Nigerians living in poverty.”

SERAP said, “Nigerians are rarely informed and meaningfully and effectively consulted about several of these loans, facilities and Bank-funded projects. Nigerians continue to be denied the benefits of the loans and facilities and access to basic public goods and services.”

According to SERAP, “Despite several loans and other funding facilities provided by the World Bank over many years, millions of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians in several states and communities continue to lack access to regular electricity supply and have denied the benefit of renewable energy solutions.”

The complaint, addressed to the Chair of the Panel, read in part: “A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that over 133 million Nigerians are living in poverty, the majority of them women and children. We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken to hold the World Bank to account.”

“The apparent failure by Bank Management to diligently follow the World Bank’s operational policies and procedures in Bank-funded projects have resulted in the alleged mismanagement of the loans and facilities and exposed millions of Nigerians to extreme poverty.”

“We are concerned about the negative impact of the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans and facilities obtained by the Federal Government and Nigeria’s 36 state governors on the social and economic well-being of millions of Nigerians and the enjoyment of their human rights.”

“We are concerned that several of Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT reportedly owe civil servants’ salaries and pensions. Several states are borrowing to pay salaries. Millions of Nigerians resident in these states and the FCT continue to be denied access to basic public goods and services.”

“The Federal Government and several states are also reportedly spending public funds which may include the loans and facilities obtained from the World Bank to fund unnecessary travels, buy exotic and bulletproof cars and generally fund the lavish lifestyles of politicians.”

“The ₦121.67 trillion ($91.46 billion) debt represents external and domestic loans obtained by the Federal Government, the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”

“The World Bank reportedly currently has a portfolio of about $8.5 billion spread across the country. The Bank has also approved several loans and other funding facilities to the country’s 36 states including the recent $750 million credit line meant to the states to carry out reforms to attract investment and create jobs.”

“The Bank recently approved a $2.25 billion loan for Nigeria ‘to shore up revenue and support economic reforms and address cost-of-living crisis in the country.’

“In September 2002, the Bank approved $129.00 million for a project titled ‘Universal Basic Education Project: P071494’ ‘to increase the capacity of states and local governments to manage and implement the UBE program effectively and efficiently.'”

“In May, 2007 the Bank approved $180.00 million for a project titled ‘Nigeria Federal Science & Technical Education at Post-Basic Levels (STEPB): P074132’, ‘to produce more and better qualified science and technology (S&T) graduates.'”

In May 2000, the Bank approved $55.00 million for a project titled ‘Second Primary Education Project: P066571’, ‘to support the implementation of Universal Basic Education.'”

“In December 2000, the Bank approved $86.75 million for a project titled ‘Community Based Poverty Reduction Project: P069086’, to ‘improve access of the poor to social and economic infrastructure and increase the availability and management of development resources at the community level.'”

“In March 2011, the Bank approved $160.00 million for a project titled ‘Nigeria – Growth & Employment: P069086’, ‘to increase growth and employment in Nigeria.'”

“In July 2020, the World Bank approved $500.00 million for a project titled ‘Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment: P170664’, ‘to improve secondary education opportunities among girls in targeted areas in participating states.'”

“The Bank also approved $500.00 million in June 2023 for a project titled ‘Nigeria for Women Program Scale Up Project: P179447’, ‘to promote women’s economic empowerment and enhance the economic opportunities of unbanked women.'”

“In June 2020, the Bank approved $750.00 million for a project titled ‘Power Sector Recovery Performance Based Operation: P164001’, ‘to improve the reliability of electricity supply, achieve financial and fiscal sustainability, and enhance accountability.'”

“In September 2022, the Bank approved $750.00 million for a project titled ‘State Action on Business Enabling Reforms (SABER) Program: P177442’, ‘to improve the efficiency and transparency of government-to-business services in participating states.'”

“Many years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds including the spending of the loans and facilities obtained by the Federal Government and Nigeria’s 36 states have contributed to widespread poverty, underdevelopment and lack of access to public goods and services in the country.”

“The allegations of corruption in the loans and facilities provided by the Bank calls into question the rigor with which the Bank undertook due diligence in assessing the social, economic and environmental risks of its financed-projects in the country.”

“The apparent inadequacy of safeguards and accountability mechanisms for the loans, facilities and project implementation has resulted in the alleged diversion of public funds for other purposes other than those agreed with the Bank.”

“The Bank has apparently failed and/or neglected to effectively apply its various operational policies and procedures to ensure the transparent and accountable spending of its 197 loans and facilities across several states in the country.

“SERAP has over the years sent several complaints to the World Bank about the lack of transparency and accountability in the loans and facilities and the projects financed by the World Bank loans but the Bank Management has consistently failed and/or neglected to take any concrete action on the complaints.”

SERAP believes that we have exhausted attempts to resolve our complaints through several communications with Bank Management.”

“The harms suffered by millions of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians as a result of the alleged corruption in the spending of loans and funding facilities provided by the Bank amount to violations of human rights guaranteed under the human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“As a UN specialized agency, the World Bank also has an obligation to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and effective implementation of the World Bank and to observe the provisions of the UN Charter, as well as the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The World Bank has obligations under international anticorruption and human rights law, including a responsibility to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, prevent mismanagement or diversion of public funds, and redress any abuse of public trust that they may have contributed to.”

“The World Bank’s board of executive directors also has an obligation to ensure that the policies and decisions of the Bank are consistent with their own statutes and governments’ transparency and accountability obligations.”

“The UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ framework for business and human rights and the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights among others impose corporate responsibility on the World Bank to assess potential risks of mismanagement or diversion of their investments and to seek to prevent or mitigate those risks.”

“Under Article 1 of the World Bank Articles of Agreement, the stated purposes of the Bank include ‘to assist in the reconstruction and development’. The Bank is also to ‘be guided in all its decisions by the purposes.'”

“Under Article 3 section 4(vii) of the World Bank Articles of Agreement, loans made or guaranteed by the Bank ‘shall be for the purpose of specific projects of reconstruction or development.’  Also, under Article 3 section 5(b), the Bank ‘shall make arrangements to ensure that the proceeds of any loan are used only for the purposes for which the loan was granted.'”

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