The odd mosquito net loan request

CRITICISMS have continued to trail the Federal Government’s controversial plan to expend $200 million, which is in excess of N82 billion, on the procurement of mosquito nets and ancillary medicaments to fight malaria in 13 out of the 36 states of the federation.

The disapproval of this unusual proposal by many Nigerians is not predicated only on the colossal amount of money to be expended on what is tantamount to frivolity in the circumstances, but also on the fact that the government plans to take a foreign loan to do the purchase since it does not have the money. Why is the purchase of mosquito nets so critical at this time that the country has to increase its already humongous foreign loan stock over it? Yes, malaria is still a disease that poses grave danger to the health of many a Nigerian but they have always found ways around it, and there are no emergencies or new indications of extraordinary or grave exacerbation of the health challenges from the disease to warrant borrowing to buy mosquito nets at this time. Besides, malaria control advocacy all over the world makes mosquito nets free. Even local philanthropists and non-governmental organisations (NGOS) distribute free mosquito nets. Indeed, there is almost a surfeit of mosquito nets in the country.

And assuming but not conceding that there is a compelling need for mosquito nets in the land, why can’t the government leverage its goodwill to attract local and international donors to help fill whatever gap exists? Given the commitment and dedication of many of these donors to their causes as exemplified by the intense advocacy often accorded to the distribution of free mosquito nets, it is safe to assume that many of them would readily partner with the government to distribute free mosquito nets. Why the government is not exploring this option, especially when it does not have the resources to procure the nets, beggars belief. And in any case, what becomes of the N450 million said to have been budgeted for fighting malaria in the 2022 appropriation bill? Is there any impure motive behind the mosquito nets purchase using debt capital? Is it not funny and curious that “not to be sold” is always imprinted on nets, yet they are readily available for sale in the market?

Why is it that this government seems to have an unbridled predilection for loans? Does it mean well for the country? And if the government must satisfy its seeming penchant for taking loans, why did it not plan for local production of mosquito nets so that, at least, the whopping sum to be borrowed will circulate within the country’s economic system? Why should the government acquiesce to an arrangement that gives the creditor the disproportionate latitude to dictate how and what to spend the loan on, and perhaps with foreign suppliers of mosquito nets? How will the country benefit maximally from the planned foreign loan when virtually all of it will be pumped back to the foreign economies by subterfuge?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just approved the first malaria vaccine. The hype about this significant breakthrough may not be as high as that of the diseases of world-wide concern, but countries in the tropics like Nigeria where malaria is most prevalent should be giving serious consideration to vaccinating their citizens instead of borrowing to buy mosquito nets. The plan to borrow to purchase mosquito nets is odd and amounts to gross misplacement of priority that casts it in the mould of an administration that is not thorough or serious about good governance. And with this oddity, how will the international community now look at Nigeria and how would the other world leaders regard their colleague who could not get his priorities right?

We commend the Senate for querying the queer loan, especially its intended purpose. In the present circumstances, it is unreasonable to worsen the country’s already concerning foreign indebtedness in order to fight malaria, especially if the intent is not to boost local production of mosquito nets and ancillary therapies to fight the disease.

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