President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigerians would have trekked from Lagos to Ibadan if he hadn’t borrowed from China.
Speaking during an exclusive interview on Channels TV, Mr Buhari reasoned that it was impossible for his regime to reject Chinese loans without alternative sources of funds.
“We got the Chinese to help us in the rail and the roads. How can we turn that down? If we had turned that down, maybe between Lagos to Ibadan, you will have to walk,” the president argued.
Mr Buhari’s regime has come under severe criticisms for repeatedly borrowing to finance some projects in the country, particularly the railway projects.
As of March 2021, Nigeria’s debt profile from China had risen to $3.40 billion, according to data from the Debt Management Office.
A report by the Nigerian Domestic and Foreign Debt Report, published last year by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), estimated that the country’s total public debt as of September 2020 was N32.2 trillion ($84.57 billion).
Despite the criticisms on the borrowings, the Nigerian president reiterated that his regime would continue to borrow.
“We take that (loans) where it is necessary. I told you now of something, what it is used to be between Lagos and Ibadan alone not to talk of the rest of the country,” he maintained.
“So the Chinese are welcome,” the president who had vowed to go to jail to keep borrowing asserted. He added that Nigerians willing to support his regime in funding projects are also welcome.
“Anybody that is prepared to come and help us and our infrastructure to do the roads, the rail, and power will be welcomed,” Mr Buhari stated.
Finance minister Zainab Ahmed in September 2021, explained that the regime’s constant reliance on loans was within healthy limits.
“Government has been borrowing before this administration and continues to borrow, and it is important that we borrow to provide developmental projects in the form of roads, rails, bridges, power, and water for sustainable development in this country,” said Ms Ahmed.
In August 2021, the World Bank listed Nigeria among the 10 countries with high debt risk exposure.
Nigeria ranked number five with $11.7 billion debt stock according to a financial statement the World Bank released on behalf of the International Development Association (IDA).