Nigeria spent N11trn on debt financing in 10 years — Investigation

•Allocated N4.413trn for education, N2.772trn for health •Medical tourism costs Nigeria N360bn annually, education tourism N1trillion

Between 2010 and 2019, a period of 10 years, Nigeria spent a total of N11.274 trillion on debt financing, Nigerian Tribune investigation has revealed.

This is 18.5 per cent of the N61.063 trillion budgetted over the period.

In the same period, the country voted N4.413 trillion (7.2 per cent) for education and N2.772 trillion (4.5 per cent) to health.

According to available statistics, out of the N5.160 trillion appropriated in 2010, N517.07 billion was allocated for debt financing. The sum increased to N527.2 billion in 2011, N559.58 billion in 2012, N591.76 billion in 2013, N712 billion in 2014 and N943 billion in 2015. In 2016, budgetary allocation for debt servicing increased to N1.48 trillion. In 2017, it was N1.84 trillion, in 2018, it was N2.014 trillion and in 2019, N2.09 trillion was allocated for debt servicing.

In 2010, N49.09 billion was allocated for education. This increased to N306.3 billion in 2011, N400.15 billion in 2012, N426.53 billion in 2013 and N493 billion in 2014. In 2015, N392.2 billion was allocated for education. It was N369.6 billion in 2016, N550 billion in 2017, N605.8 billion in 2018 and N620.5 billion in 2019.

Health got an allocation of N164 billion in 2010, N235.9 billion in 2011, N282.2 billion in 2012, N282.5 billion in 2013, N264.4 billion in 2014 and N259.8 billion in 2015. In 2016, N250.1 billion was allocated for health, in 2017 it was N377.4 billion, N340.45 billion in 2018 and N315.62 billion in 2016.

Nigeria has had to increase its yearly allocation to debt servicing because the country’s debt profile, which stood at $3.51 billion (N527 billion) in 2006, had, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), risen to N24.947 trillion as of March 31, 2019.

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Commenting on the budgetary provisions to health and education over the years, Olanrewaju Suraju, chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), said the paltry allocations to the two critical sectors had rendered them almost comatose and unable to provide basic services to Nigerians, thus forcing those with enough financial means to seek alternatives outside the country.

Painting the dismal state of the country’s health sector in lurid colours in October 2017 back, the president’s wife, Mrs Aisha Buhari, said the Aso Rock Clinic, the hospital meant to attend to the healthcare of the president and his family, lacked basic facilities.

According to her, “a few weeks ago, I was sick. They advised me to take the first flight out to London; I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria. Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Rock Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine was working. They said it was not working. They did not know I was the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.

“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 per cent. What does that mean? I think it is high time we did the right thing. If something like this can happen to me, there is no need for me to ask the governors’ wives what is happening in their states. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government and this is the Presidential Villa.”

According to Nigerian Tribune findings, an average Nigerian is usually killed by preventable sicknesses and diseases.

A 2018 World Health Organisation (WHO) report claims that five countries account for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide with Nigeria being responsible for 25 per cent of the cases. The implication of this is that out of every four persons killed by malaria in the world, there is a Nigerian. The report added that there are up to 100 million cases of malaria resulting in over 300,000 deaths in Nigeria every year.

Another common cause of death in Nigeria is diarrhea, which accounts for about 175,000 deaths in Nigeria every year.

According to United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world with the country being responsible for nine per cent of new-born deaths. According to the 2017 report, only India (24 per cent) and Pakistan (10 per cent) have higher rates of infant mortality than Nigeria.

Nigeria holds the record as one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. According to WHO, “Nigeria is also the country where nearly 20 per cent of all global maternal deaths happen. Between 2005 and 2015, it is estimated that over 600,000 maternal deaths and no less than 900,000 maternal near-miss cases occurred in the country.”

Consequently, Nigerians who can afford it travel to countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, India, Germany, Israel, Ghana and United Arab Emirate, among others to get treatment for all manner of illnesses, thus depriving the country of much needed resources.

According to a 2016 Price Waterhouse Coopers report, Nigerians spend $1 billion annually on medical tourism with 60 per cent of it on four key specialties, namely oncology, orthopedics, nephrology and cardiology. Going by the current exchange rate of dollar to the naira of N360/dollar, this is higher than what the country spends on the health sector annually. The report has been corroborated by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), which says that Nigeria spends an estimated $1billion on outbound medical tourism each year. Similarly, Olusesan Ayodeji Makinde, Brandon Brown, Olalekan Olaleye in an article, Medical Tourism and the Code of Medical Ethics on Advertisement in Nigeria, published in The Pan African Medical Journal, claimed that about 30, 000 Nigerians are estimated to spend $1 billion annually on medical tourism. Mrs Clare Omatseye, a former president of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, also stated that the country spends about $1 billion annually on medical tourism.

Confirming the extent of medical tourism to his country by Nigerians, a former Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ajjampur Ghanshyam, said that in 2015, about 40,000 Nigerians visited India, half of them for medical reasons, such as transplant surgery, joint replacement and dental surgery, among other procedures.

Just as Nigerians are spending a huge fortune on medical tourism, so are they expending humongous resources on education tourism as a result of the poor education system occasioned by inadequate funding.

According to a former vice chancellor of Covenant University, Ota, Professor Charles Ayo, Nigeria loses at least N1 trillion to education tourism.

The don, who was speaking at the convocation of Crawford University, Igbesa, said about 75,000 Nigerians are currently studying in Ghana, Benin Republic, and Egypt.

Corroborating Ayo’s position, President of Houdegbe North American University in the Republic of Benin, Dada Houdegbe, recently said about 90 per cent of the students in the university were Nigerians.

Ayo’s position is further substantiated by a 2016 United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report, which states that a total of 70,858 Nigerian students are studying in various countries of the world.

The UNESCO’s report shows that there are 3,300 Nigerian students in Ukraine; 777 in Russia, 1,755 in the United Arab Emirate; 1,915 in Saudi Arabia; 2,525 in South Africa; 3,257 in Canada and 13,000 in Malaysia.

In the United States of America, there are 7,318 Nigerian students; there are 13,919 in Ghana; 17,973 in the United Kingdom; 1,260 in India; 1,189 in Egypt; 949 in Australia; 876 in Turkey and 845 in Germany.

According to UNICEF, one out of every five out-of-school children in the world is in Nigeria, saying there are 10.5 million such children in the country. This submission has been corroborated by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, with a slight amendment. According to the minister, the number of out-of-school children in the country is 10,193,918.

UNICEF stated that “though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 per cent of 6-11 years old regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education. In the northern part of the country, the picture is even bleaker with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent. Getting out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge.”

Suraju said for Nigeria to reverse the trend in the education and health sectors, the leaders have to come up with a sound philosophy for both the education and health sectors, and must be ready to properly fund the sectors.

He added: “All the tiers of the health sector; primary healthcare, secondary and tertiary must be properly funded. When they are well funded, they will be able to discharge their responsibilities and Nigerians will have confidence in them.”

He also said the government should strengthen all the institutions to ensure that the proper things are done, while those with statutory oversight functions should carry them out in accordance with the spirit of the law.

In her comment on the cost of education tourism to Nigeria, an educationist Mrs Kemi Sodeinde called on government at all levels to take the funding of education seriously, saying “it is not in our interest as a nation to cede the education of our young people to other nations.”

“Parents who send their children to other countries to be educated are not to blame; they want the best for their children. If we improve the education system, if we make the system to work and to deliver value of global standards, many of those who send their children to foreign countries, especially our West African neighbours, will turn a new leaf.”

Commenting on the nation’s rising debt profile, Director, Centre for Energy Economics, Petroleum and Law, University of Ibadan, Professor Adeola Adenikinju, said the nation’s debt profile called for concern because it might negatively affect the country’s ability to provide infrastructure and embark on programmes and projects that would be of benefit to the country.

While calling on the leaders of the country to fashion out ways to increase the country’s revenue, he said “policies that boost economic activities and employment are the best means of widening the revenue base. We can also explore taxing luxury goods as well as property taxes, especially on those above certain thresholds to protect the poor. Attempts should also be made to close existing tax loopholes.”

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