₦121.7tr debt: ​”Hold World Bank to account” – SERAP tells Inspection Panel

SERAP World Bank

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), has sent a complaint to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, urging the Panel “to probe allegations of corruption in the spending of the loans and other funding facilities obtained by the Federal Government and Nigeria’s 36 State governors and to review the implementation of all Bank-funded projects by successive governments since 1999”.

SERAP World Bank2

In an issued letter, dated June 22, 2024 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP urged the Inspection Panel “to determine the extent to which Bank Management has followed or is following the World Bank’s operational policies and procedures applicable to the design, appraisal and implementation of all Bank-financed projects in Nigeria”.

SERAP also urged the Panel “to determine the effect of any failure by the Bank Management to effectively implement its operational policies and procedures in all Bank-funded projects in several states on the social and economic rights and well-being of millions of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians”.

SERAP’s complaint followed the Debt Management Office (DMO)’s report last week, that Nigeria’s total public debt stock, including external and domestic debts, increased by ₦24.33 trillion in three months alone, from ₦97.34 trillion ($108.23 billion) in December 2023 to ₦121.67 trillion ($91.46 billion) as of March 31, 2024.

The organisation said: “The World Bank has over the years reportedly approved 197 projects for Nigeria, totalling over $36 billion in loans and other funding facilities [that is, $36,360,415,968.81], with little or no impact on Nigerians living in poverty”.

SERAP said, “Nigerians are rarely informed and meaningfully and effectively consulted about several of these loans, facilities and Bank-funded projects. Nigerians continue to be denied the benefits of the loans and facilities and access to basic public goods and services”.

According to SERAP, “Despite several loans and other funding facilities provided by the World Bank over many years, millions of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians in several states and communities continue to lack access to regular electricity supply and have denied the benefit of renewable energy solutions”.

The complaint, addressed to the Chair of the Panel, read in part: “A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that over 133 million Nigerians are living in poverty, the majority of them women and children. We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken to hold the World Bank to account.

“The apparent failure by Bank Management to diligently follow the World Bank’s operational policies and procedures in Bank-funded projects have resulted in the alleged mismanagement of the loans and facilities and exposed millions of Nigerians to extreme poverty.

“We are concerned about the negative impact of the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans and facilities obtained by the Federal Government and Nigeria’s 36 state governors on the social and economic well-being of millions of Nigerians and the enjoyment of their human rights.

“We are concerned that several of Nigeria’s 36 States and the FCT reportedly owe civil servants’ salaries and pensions. Several states are borrowing to pay salaries. Millions of Nigerians resident in these states and the FCT continue to be denied access to basic public goods and services.

“The Federal Government and several States are also reportedly spending public funds which may include the loans and facilities obtained from the World Bank to fund unnecessary travels, buy exotic and bulletproof cars and generally fund the lavish lifestyles of politicians.

“The ₦121.67 trillion ($91.46 billion) debt represents external and domestic loans obtained by the Federal Government, the 36 State governments and the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT).

“The World Bank reportedly currently has a portfolio of about $8.5 billion spread across the country. The Bank has also approved several loans and other funding facilities to the country’s 36 States, including the recent $750 million credit line meant to the States to carry out reforms to attract investment and create jobs.

“The Bank recently approved a $2.25 billion loan for Nigeria ‘to shore up revenue and support economic reforms and address cost-of-living crisis in the country.

“SERAP has over the years sent several complaints to the World Bank about the lack of transparency and accountability in the loans and facilities and the projects financed by the World Bank loans but the Bank Management has consistently failed and/or neglected to take any concrete action on the complaints.

“SERAP believes that we have exhausted attempts to resolve our complaints through several communications with the Bank Management.

“The harms suffered by millions of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians as a result of the alleged corruption in the spending of loans and funding facilities provided by the Bank amount to violations of human rights guaranteed under the human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a State Party.

“As a UN specialised agency, the World Bank also has an obligation to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and effective implementation of the World Bank, and to observe the provisions of the UN Charter, as well as the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a State Party.

“The World Bank has obligations under international anticorruption and human rights law, including a responsibility to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, prevent mismanagement or diversion of public funds, and redress any abuse of public trust that they may have contributed to.

“The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors also has an obligation to ensure that the policies and decisions of the Bank are consistent with their own statutes and Governments’ transparency and accountability obligations.

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