A Nigerian state governor and vocal critic of President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Chinese government, requesting they not approve a billion-dollar loan to the West African country.
Ayodele Fayose, the governor of Nigeria’s western Ekiti state, penned the letter during a working visit to China by Buhari and other senior government officials, including Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun. The finance minister was reportedly traveling to China to seek a loan of around $2 billion, to help fund Nigeria’s record budget, which is predicted to generate a deficit of 3 trillion naira ($15 billion) in 2016, Reuters reported.
“While conceding that all nations, especially developing ones, need support to be able to grow because no nation is an island, I am constrained to inform you that if the future of Nigeria must be protected, the country does not need any loan at this time,” said Fayose in the letter dated April 12, which was obtained by Nigeria’s Premium Times on Thursday.
Fayose—a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, which was ousted from government when Buhari defeated the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in elections in March 2015—added that “Nigerians, irrespective of their political and religious affiliations, are totally opposed to [the] increment of the country’s debt burden.”
The Ekiti governor claimed that 25 percent of the Federal Government’s budget was already being used to service national debt. The letter was reportedly delivered to the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Gu Xiaojie, in Abuja on Thursday. Newsweek contacted the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria but no one was immediately available to comment.
It is not clear whether such a $2 billion loan to fund Nigeria’s deficit has been agreed during the state visit to China. Beijing has offered Nigeria a $6 billion loan to fund various infrastructure projects, according to Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, after negotiations between Buhari and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Prior to the trip, Adeosun also spoke of the possibility of financing the deficit through the issuing of Panda Bonds —bonds sold by a foreign entity in China that are issued in the Chinese yuan (or renminbi) currency.
Fayose’s criticism of Buhari is not without precedent. The Ekiti governor previously criticized the president for attending a nuclear summit in Washington, D.C. from March 31-April 3 while Nigeria was suffering power outages and a fuel shortage that has seen massive queues gather outside gas stations across the country. The PDP member has also been scathing of Buhari’s handling of the 2016 budget, which the president is yet to sign off. The budget was first proposed by Buhari in December 2015 but its implementation has been slowed after various irregularities were discovered, such as 795 million naira ($4 million) being set aside for the renovation of one unnamed government ministry’s website.
Nigerians should expect more blunders like this budget crisis until they send Buhari back to Daura in 2019.— Peter Ayodele Fayose (@GovAyoFayose) April 12, 2016