A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have urge the Federal Government to judiciously utilize the International Monetary Fund (IMF) $3.4 billion loan on health, socio-economic safety nets and support for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).
While welcoming the loan as a prompt response to the Federal Government’s request for financial assistance to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and shore up the country’s failing economy, the CSOs demanded for judiciously and transparent disbursement of the loan in order to achieve its objectives.
In its study, Oxfam’s analysis shows that the COVID-19 crisis could set back the fight against poverty 30 years in sub-Saharan Africa.
The CSO’s Country Director, Constant Tchona, clarified: “Even before the ongoing pandemic, poverty and inequality levels were unacceptably high in Nigeria. Both the FGN and IMF therefore need to ensure that these funds are directed towards meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in society especially women, children, internally displaced persons and rural communities.”
In his remarks, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, advised that “to ensure full transparency, openness and accountability in the application of this loan to serve the people who need it most, we urge both Government and IMF to take a step further and support the creation of a civil society network to contribute to monitor the disbursement of the funds.”
The CSOs, which comprised Oxfam in Nigeria, BudgIT, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Connected Development (CODE), at a forum in Abuja noted that whereas the Federal Government faced the dilemma of whether to save lives and livelihoods or continue meeting its obligations to global creditors, it would cost more if government opted for honouring debt obligations when lives of the citizenry are at risk.
On their stance on Nigeria’s debt obligations, the CSOs said: “We call for an immediate cancelation of all payments owed by Nigeria to bilateral, international financial institutions and commercial lenders that are due in 2020.
“This will allow the Nigerian Government the needed fiscal space to save lives, fight the pandemic and resuscitate the flagging economy,” they added.
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