With less than one week to the end of his tenure, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, defended the heavy borrowings under his regime describing it as a “deliberate choice” to fight poverty and create economic growth for Nigerians.
“It has been a deliberate choice for our government as a tool to fight poverty, to create economic growth and employment and to open the path of prosperity for our people,” Buhari said at the virtual commissioning of three bridges, three secretariats and one road project undertaken by his regime.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement he signed on Tuesday titled ‘We invested in infrastructure for economic growth and prosperity, says President Buhari as he commissions Second Niger Bridge, others.’
The PUNCH reported that the Federal Government’s borrowing from China has grown by 209.15 per cent under the Buhari regime.
This is as total bilateral loans rose by 219.91 per cent from $1.58bn as of June 2015 to $5.07bn as of December 2022.
Total borrowing from China rose from $1.39bn to $4.29bn in the period under review.
More so, the country’s total debt stock nears N80tn as Buhari would end his tenure on May 29.
But Buhari who defended criticisms of the debt profile of his regime said, “We do not act on infrastructure by accident. It has been a deliberate choice for our government as a tool to fight poverty, to create economic growth and employment and to open the path of prosperity for our people.”
He emphasised that while he shared the concerns of Nigerians, the debts were tied to projects that had been executed in very transparent circumstances for people to verify.
“As we look at the debt profile, I urge us to also look at the assets and investment profiles, some of which were paid for by debt and some by investment income.
“In eight years, I am proud to say that we have doubled Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure to GDP from about 20 per cent to over 40 per cent and that is no small undertaking.
“The projects that we hand over today, apart from others such as rail, sea and airports; gas pipeline projects that have been previously completed, symbolise our country’s sharp focus on delivering prosperity,” he said.
He described three of the bridges being commissioned as frontal efforts to address multidimensional poverty and improve business efficiency and service delivery time.
“The Ikom Bridge is meant to boost trade in and around the Calabar Port and Free Zone and facilitate transport connectivity from the South-South, through the North- Central to the North-East. This is a bridge across the Cross River itself.
“The Second Niger Bridge, which has been long in the making, and is certainly now a reality, is a bridge of choice across the River Niger to bring relief to those crossing from the Southeast to the Southwest.
“The Loko-Oweto Bridge, across the River Benue, will provide shorter connectivity for those traversing from Benue to Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory. It cuts off travel through Lafia and provides connectivity to Keffi and Abuja,” Buhari said.
He also commissioned 200 kilometers out of the 365 kilometres Abuja-Kano highway, noting that the road, the Second Niger Bridge, and the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway were all funded partly from dividend income earned from investment in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, repatriated funds from overseas, and recoveries from proceeds of crime successfully prosecuted at home.
Buhari said, “This is an example of the change that we promised; to invest dividend income in visible assets that last for generations and to put proceeds of crime to public and enduring use for the country. Our anti-corruption approach does not end in court. Stolen and recovered assets are utilised for the common good.”
The President also commissioned three federal secretariats in Anambra, Bayelsa and Zamfara states, believing that the projects would reduce the cost of governance by bringing federal civil servants under one roof for efficient service delivery, thereby reducing expenditure on rent for office spaces.