Of Uche Usim, Abuja
Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola on Thursday criticized the Olusegun Obasanjo administration’s decision to pay Nigerian creditors $ 12 billion in cash out of the $ 30 billion in 2005 sovereign debt, saying it was a a decision which he would have vehemently opposed had he been a member of the Federal Executive Council at that time. He argued that such a sum of money was better funneled into strategic investments in infrastructure, which would have fattened the Nigerian economy for greater feats.
Fashola, who spoke at a town hall meeting hosted by Business Hallmark on the topic; âThe infrastructure revolution in Nigeria; Road to a New Future, âsaid tackling infrastructure degradation was a higher priority than paying down the nation’s debt when the decision was made.
He added that if adequate investments were made in infrastructure, these assets would help repay loans. He said: âOur government in 2005 decided to go pay a debt of $ 12 billion in cash, but our house was in dire need. It was a political choice. I would have opposed this decision if I was in government because we urgently needed to invest at that time.
âIf we had invested, the results of these investments would have brought us more income, much more income and would have put us in a better position to repay these debts. Fast forward to 2015, after paying $ 12 billion, we now owe $ 32 billion.
âWe are looking for the resources, investing them in infrastructure and using the returns to pay off this loan. “
The minister, however, said the federal government under Buhari has made infrastructure a priority to boost the country’s socio-economic fortunes.
Demonstrating this, he said the government is currently implementing 896 road and bridge contracts covering more than 13,000 km in all states of the federation.
Earlier in his remarks, Federation Government Secretary (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha said that when Buhari’s administration took power in May 2015, it faced enormous challenges in terms of ‘infrastructure.