There was a time, albeit fleeting, in the history of the young experiment called Nigeria's democracy, that she owed no one a kobo. The erstwhile President Obasanjo whose then-detractors ran the gamut from hilariously morbid jokes about his visage to outright name-calling; had achieved the 'Holy Grail' of national fiscal policy: The Debt Cancellation. He had somehow managed to convince the Paris Club to write-off Nigeria's foreign debt.

Those were the days before now. Days before President Jonathan. Days before the national debt became like America's enemies: foreign and domestic.

Now, under the Jonathan administration, amongst the insecurity challenges, the economy is staggering under the heavy weight of a deficit in the balance sheet. This, in spite of one obvious advantage. What mean I?

Only this year, when the rest of the world's economies wanted to demonstrate their disdain for imperialism at the World Bank, they threw their weight behind one individual. One individual with a black skin and the XX Chromosome. Neither a woman nor a black person had ever headed the Bretton Woods organisation but Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala almost did. No one, least of all, the world's governments that billed her fit to head the global bank, would fault the optimism of Nigerians when they expected nothing short of miracles as far as a robust economy was concerned. Therefore, when SURE-P was hastily drawn up to pacify the millions of Nigerians that had taken to the streets with placards and unfounded manifestos during the Fuel Subsidy Protest of January '12, not a few Nigerians were positive. But now, not even the curriculum vitae from Harvard and MIT can stall the precarious decline of confidence in the powers of the Jonathan's administration to reduce debt.
Domestic debt is now being counted in trillions and foreign debt has morphed, like Dangote's account balance, from zero to over 8 billion dollars. Yet, the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO) as the official manager of national debt, during the latest weekend retreat in the South-Western State of Osun, affirm that these figures are still 'within sustainable level."

He and Dr. Iweala speak from the same side of the debate floor. They have not reckoned that there is no difference between National Economic Empowerment Development Strategies, (NEEDS) and SUBSIDY REINVESTMENT AND EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME (SURE-P); and many more bogus initiatives that are empty of genuineness and achievement. At least in the minds of Nigerians.

The DG has explained his position, though. As if he was reading from the contents of the best-seller book franchise, 'Rich Dad Poor Dad', he sought to explain the difference between good debt and bad debt: the latter being increased debt accumulation by the government. The former, increased private sector borrowing, he surmised; was beneficial (key, even) to industrialisation. A move, he argued that would help build more industries, create employment (it is amazing how everything proposed by the government is touted to create employment), provide export and consequently, foreign exchange. Ultimately, he advocated that increased private sector borrowing, is healthy fiscal policy.

But then, there's the other side of the debate. The debt. It stands petulant, unwilling to budge, especially when the number-crunching begins. The Chairman of House Committee on Aids and Loans, Honourable Ajayi is amongst the hard-liners. When economic planning is being made, debt will be taken into account. A justification for borrowing under the pretext of developing the nation was not satisfactory to the lawmaker (and millions of Nigerians) who was also present at the Osun event. In spite of the evidence (the only evidence, by the way, that the government seems to have these days) that we glean from the bodacious attempt to revamp the Nigerian agricultural sector. If the fast-talking Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinkunmi Adesina and his team are to be successful, then at least 3 billion dollars will be saved annually (the huge amount Nigeria spends importing rice yearly), not to mention other exports like cassava and palm oil. Adesina's aim is to recapture the glory days, when much like fiction it seems these days, the groundnut pyramids produced foreign exchange.

Where there's government in Nigeria, there's fraud. For instance, there's the embarrassing case of a missing 500 billion naira from the SURE-P account.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Ministry of Finance share complicity in this matter but none will step up to the plate. Nigerians are not strangers to name-calling but for starters, a return to the status quo may prove the sincerity of the present administration. If development with the available funds is not possible, then why borrow even more to increase national debt? Why bleed the country dry with a 22% (and climbing) 'sustainable national debt'?

For the Jonathan administration, the aftermath probe of this government might just reveal Olympic-sized fraud that can further cast aspersions on the capability and integrity of not only the current Minister of Finance but the Nigerian State.

By ‘Kutu Ameji.

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