Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday raised the alarm that Nigeria and other African countries had yet to see the worst of the effects of coronavirus pandemic. He, therefore, urged Nigeria and other African countries to unite and seek debt forgiveness.

Atiku, in a statement, titled, ‘What Africa must do to mitigate the damaging effects of coronavirus,’ also called on Nigerian leaders to take sound economic decisions to stave the country from economic strangulation.

He said, “Nigeria and other African nations are yet to see the worst of the effects of this scourge. That is why we should unite and seek debt forgiveness, as a direct consequence of the impact of this pandemic on our economies.”

He noted that before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the globe, Nigeria spent 42 per cent of its earnings on debt servicing. Atiku cautioned that even if Nigeria devoted 100 per cent of its income to rebuilding the economy, it still would not be enough. The ex-VP said, “Had we closed our ports of entry early, we would probably have had better reasons to be hopeful.

“Even when we are able to avoid a high human toll from this virus, we would not be able to escape a much higher economic toll. We may have a recession. The challenge right now must be to mitigate it since we cannot avoid it. Already, we see forced currency devaluations from the Cape to Cairo. These will no doubt lead to internal inflation, which will spell trouble for nations like Nigeria that have a high external dollar debt burden.”

According to him, the government of the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) lacks competent hands. He added that budgets for some agencies and institutions did not show sound economic decisions.

Atiku said, “Today’s Nigerian government is severely lacking qualified hands. And nothing proves this than the state of the Presidency itself. After devoting N13bn to the State House Clinic in the last five years, it is virtually useless as we face the most significant public health challenge of our national life.

“The issue of Nigeria wanting to borrow $6.9bn at this time shows the almost delusory state of our government. No one has that type of money to throw about.”

He stated that to save the economy, Nigeria must engage in immediate shuttle diplomacy to get Saudi Arabia and Russia to settle their differences. Atiku also said Nigeria must insist that the Abacha loot held by Western governments must be immediately and unconditionally returned. He advised that the Federal Government’s 2020 budget should be abandoned and replaced with a realistic one.