Africa

American lawmakers ask govt to return Nigeria’s debt repayment

Angola Press
January 9, 2006

New York: A group of US lawmakers have called on the American
government to return to Nigeria Washington D.C’s share of the $12.4
billion Abuja is supposed to repay to its creditors. According to
reports obtained from Washington on Saturday, the 18 lawmakers, mostly
members of the US Congressional Black Caucus, made the request in a
letter to US Treasury Secretary John Snow and US EXIM Bank President
James Lambright. The letter was delivered to the two officers on
Wednesday. Nigeria owes $396 million to America, the debt held by the
US EXIM Bank and US Agency for International Development. The
legislators, led by Democratic representatives Donald Payne of New
Jersey State and Maxine Waters of California State, said the cost of
forgiving the debt will be minimal to US taxpayers but its impact in
Nigeria would be huge. They pointed out that 20% of Nigerian children
die before the age of five, 2,500 children die everyday from
preventable diseases while 300,000 Nigerians die every year from
HIV/AIDS. To ensure that the money forgiven is judiciously used, the
lawmakers said it would be channelled through the World Bank-sponsored
Virtual Poverty Fund. The programme, they explained, would be
transparent because the government and civil society groups would
oversee its disbursement. Nigeria agreed to a debt reduction programme
with its official creditors in October 2005, under which the country
would repay $12.4 billion of its $30 billion debt upfront and be
forgiven $18 billion. The US lawmakers pointed out that Nigeria’s debt
was odious because the loans were made to its dictators, while most of
the debt was accumulated penalties and interest rates on arrears
accrued by the dictators. Civil society organisations in industrial
nations have campaigned against the debt arrangement, saying the
conditions were unfavourable and would force Nigeria to implement
belt-tightening programmes sponsored by the International Monetary
Fund. Earlier in December, some anti-debt groups in the UK asked
British Prime Minister Tony Blair not to accept the debt repayment from
Nigeria. The UK is to receive about $1.7 billion, the highest amount to
be repaid to any single country. Italy, France and Germany are together
expected to receive about 18 percent of the debt repayment. Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo has said his government will have completed
paying the $12.4 billion by March.

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Categories: Africa, Nigeria, Odious Debts

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