Foreign Aid

Nigeria’s economic woes and the doctrine of odious debt

Femi Eseku
Daily Sun
April 23, 2009

It is noteworthy that Nigeria’s economic woes did not start in recent times, neither did it begin with the mismanagement of its various leaders since the country attained “political” independence in 1960.

It started way back, before the nation states that make up modern Nigeria emerged as a political entity, being a design of the British hegemonic empire. The same insinuation can be ascribed to several other states across sub-Saharan Africa. The whole situation over the centuries has been a grand conspiracy of dehumanization against generations of helpless African people by successive African leaders and their western and other developed economic conspirators outside the continent.

As an historian, I shall catalogue my submission with historical facts and modern economic exploitative indices that landed us in this quagmire of confusion, deception and illusion.

I was reading a paper presentation sent into my mailbox by a good friend of mine, Mr. Ogunjimi Gbenga, CEO of Landmark Internship International, who had been my colleague as undergraduates during our university days and couldn’t help but ruminate on the trail of Nigeria’s misery in the hands of carnivorous economic saboteurs, disguised as international donor agencies and their greedy oligarchic African recipients, who represent a powerful minority of self serving cabals of political jingoist and sadists.

The truth of the matter is that, if economic aids from developed nations are the answer to the wretchedness of Africa at large, we shouldn’t still be at the brink of the ladder in global economic terms, continually receiving left over “handouts” from nations who have, over the years, been and are still exploiting the best from Africa, in terms of human and raw materials for their economic sustainability.

Our woes started when we first made contacts with the white men. This is no racist sentiment but a brutal truth of visible reality. The relationship that existed between the Africans and their Arab and later European counterparts is one of brutal inequality of economic deprivations. The trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic slave trades started with “medieval international donor agents”, in the guise of slave trade merchants and later colonial masters, who at first, “donated” to the few greedy short-sighted and effete African leaders, bottles of dry gins, gun-powders, Dane-guns and other immaterial commodities in exchange of the best humans in the land and raw materials like gold, ivory, indigenous art-works, wax and cash crops.

The cost of these unequal exchanges has remained an indelible mark on the psyche of Nigerians and Africans at large. We seem not to learn. In pure fact, every penny donated to Africans by the so-called international agencies, has remained an invisible chain of slavery on the neck of every hard working black man.

As the years rolled by, the so called donors agencies, changed their tactics but retained their objectivity by offering us the “Greek gifts”, through the extension of financial aids to Africans, whose leaders, they are aware are not popular with the masses. Despite the miss-governance in Africa, donor agencies continued to support corrupt regimes with funds they are aware are being looted and depriving innocent people of basic needs. Funds meant for infrastructural developments, mechanized agriculture, industrial growth, environmental development etc, are being stolen and kept in foreign banks. Unfortunately, the thieves are not weapon wielding, brutal looking criminals, who break into the homes of innocent citizens but sweet talking, conniving cold blooded politicians who steal more than they can use in a lifetime for themselves and their family members.

What a big shame. The miss-use of donated funds by our leaders eventually leads to hunger, under-development, ignorance, diseases and untold hardship never before experienced by any civilization. As a result of these realities, I believe that international agencies should reverse their tactics by giving conditionalities that should warrant foreign aids. These conditions should be hinged on credible elections and electoral laws, human right records, free press, access to information’s, accountability of elected officials, autonomous central bank, independent judiciary and an independent Electoral Commission amongst others.

As a matter of fact, an economic aid is another terminology for “soft loans”, which must be paid back to the donor agencies by the recipient countries, at a certain percentage. These repayments are to be borne by poor helpless and jobless Nigerians, who in truth, are not benefiting from the largesse in any way. According to the paper presentation I read, it was written that, “In the field of international law, a loan to an illegitimate or corrupt government constitutes illegitimate debts to its people”. It should be noted that any foreign “soft loan” or credit to an insensitive and anti-people government in Africa, without the authorization of its people, should not be paid back. The writer, in simple words, referred to a doctrine known as “odious debt”, which originated in 1898 when the Americans captured Cuba from Spain. The latter demanded that the USA repay Cuba’s debt and they refused on the grounds that the debt had been “imposed on the people of Cuba without their consent and by force of arms… The creditors, from the beginning, took the chance of the investments”.

Since 1927, the world’s undisputed legal scholar, Alexander Sack of Russia, has enshrined the “doctrine of odious debt”, in international law. In effect, Nigerians and credible civil societies should note for once that all the funds being stolen or improperly used on behalf of Nigerians without the people’s consent should be regarded as an odious debt. Should this occur, such a donor agent should accept the fact that they are knowingly throwing away money into a lost investment. Of course, the effort to stop aid agencies from giving out aids to corrupt hungry African leaders may seem futile, the fact remains that they are in no way loosing but placing their genuine taxpayers on a psychological burden of conscience.

For every African that suffers or dies of deprivation, diseases or outright neglect, is being funded by western taxpayers. According to a Clinton administration review reports, the “U.S. spent $27.7 billion on foreign assistance. About 75 percent of that money was spent in the United States to purchase such items as food and equipment sent abroad or the salaries of aid workers”! According to one UN estimated report, about “$200 billion or 90 percent of the sub-Saharan part of the continent’s gross domestic products was shipped to foreign banks in 1991 alone. How can this ever translate into development in Nigeria or Africa?

The food are not grown or developed on African soil and the equipments were not manufactured in it. We can’t continue to be burdened by a gift that would eventually enslave us. We need to use foreign aids to develop our human potentials through education, improve our agricultural output, transform our economies into export based ones and secure our children’s future.

The reality out of Africa remains negative virtues such as corruption, illegitimate governments, human rights abuse records even in a democratic settings, and civil wars, mostly occasioned by the adamant refusal of African leaders to relinquish or share political powers, hence causing aggression by politically excluded groups. To disengage from these unwarranted abys, Nigerians should resist the repulsive aids from international donor agencies. It is nothing but the deceptive “gift of the Greeks”.

Categories: Foreign Aid

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