Hungarian €54m loan to Nigeria: The truth of the matter
By Hakeem Babalola
Before I go in perspective, it’s important for me to state why I participated in the recent protest against the €54m loan reputed to have been agreed upon between the Nigerian and Hungarian governments. Two things though: My considerable distrust of Nigerian public officials in terms of accountability and excessive corruption; and of course, my intense dislikes for wasteful and “enslavement” loan or borrowing. I am of the opinion that borrowing impoverishes a nation and its people.
It could be recalled that the Association of Nigerians Hungary recently staged a peaceful protest over a purported YouTube video in which the Nigerian Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Husseini Adamu discloses to a group of journalists that his ministry was awaiting approval from Nigeria’s Minister of Finance to accept the Hungarian “aid credit/soft loan”. In the video, Adamu says the €54m loan is for feasibility study preceding the actual project to save guard both the River Niger and Benue from excessive flooding, adding that Hungarian experts are to work along with some Nigerian experts to stop the flood he describes as a menace.
Now, in life, every organization has its moment. It’s that special opportunity to project its seriousness about the purpose, aim, and vision. Such moment is critical and any layback approach on the part of the administrator(s) may entail a great loss. It’s such moment that actually defines any organization – be it NGO or government or private. In most cases, such moment comes and wraps itself as crises. Unfortunately, only a few organizations seize such vital moment to stamp their authority on whatever it is they claim to cherish.
Therefore, the recent nonviolent protest led by the Association of Nigerians Hungary and others against their government’s “unacceptable” Hungarian loan and the embassy of Nigeria Budapest reaction is a case study and typical example of the readiness to seize such moment. It is from this angle I would like us to see the loan which has become controversial.
While the Association of Nigerians Hungary used the moment to show its readiness, I am afraid the same thing cannot be said of our embassy here. In such situation as magnitude as this, one expects the embassy to have come out in full and do whatever is necessary to counter the position of the Association.
For goodness sake, explain in detail to us and Hungarians why Nigeria must obtain such loan. In this respect, the embassy has performed below expectation. Yes, the embassy puts a press release on its website which is commendable. However, it should have done more – much more.
For instance, a quick and better-designed press release to the same medium or media ANH had used against the loan should have been a perfect starting point. For me, the notice on the embassy website is nothing more than lack of preparation in occasions like this. I wonder who is managing the embassy’s media affairs. Please organize a press conference now!
Another option is to have sent an urgent message to all Nigerians in Hungary via our emails regarding the situation. After all, the embassy has our contacts in its database. As for me, I did not receive any message and I am sure my contact is with our embassy. Yet, another fantastic option would have been to mobilize those that the embassy described as ordinary and professional Nigerians in Hungary to come to its rescue by organizing conferences, or even workshops. I am sure they are educated enough to know the significance of such action.
The embassy being our representative should explain in details why it’s in Nigeria and Nigerians’ best interest to become a perpetual borrower instead of a credible lender. It is not enough to state that “the project if implemented would hold huge potential for Nigeria”. We have heard phrases like this before, and it has never transformed into something tangible. It has become a time-worn cliche. We need new ideas; new approach; new implementation – to move our country forward.
Again, one expects the embassy to have addressed some of the important issues the Association raised in its letter. Most especially this one: What is the point of seeking a loan for a ’study’ that will lead to a bigger project expected to stop flooding when a dredging project that will end the same flooding has already commenced? Is our Minister trying to duplicate a project that has already commenced through the financing of our government?
I think the above question summarizes the agitation and concerns – legitimate if I may add – of the protesters. There is too much duplication of projects; of offices; of officers; of funds; of aid and so on in our country. It is terrible.
While some of the Hungarian ministries involved have been explaining the situation of things, the best response from our embassy is the short notice on its website describing the protest as “unfortunate, uncalled for and unpatriotic. My goodness, is this the best our embassy could come up with at this critical moment? Is this what the embassy could come up with when the Association has taken a practical step? Common, organize a press conference, grant as many interviews as possible and so on. Indeed, a €54m loan is a huge amount of money not to have been secured as a result of the “unpatriotic” demonstration of some Nigerians and friends.
Talking about an unpatriotic act, is the demonstration as unpatriotic as the Nigerian president who resided in England for 104 days for medical treatment while many Nigerians continue to die at home as a result of non-availability of social amenities he had enjoyed in his adopted country – England? Who is unpatriotic? The public officials who on a daily basis, steal and bury our common-wealth in an apartment, graveyard, farmland or a group of Nigerians trying to block an avenue where such money will get into such pilfering hands?
It is not surprising that our embassy here has condemned the protest. Well, the fact that it decried the peaceful demonstration does not make it illegitimate. Perhaps the embassy knows the truth of the matter but just being diplomatic – as usual. It is this kind of unnecessary loans that is undermining our progress among the comity of nations; yes, it is this kind of loans that we have systematically allowed to mortgage the future of our children’s children.
Furthermore, our Charge D’ Affairs claims the protest could jeopardize the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Hungary. Haba, Madam CDA. For your information ma, such protest is normal in this part of the world. Remember that Nigerians in England held a vigil to protest Mr. President’s continuous staying in that land. And within 24 hrs he had left England for our dear country – after 104 days! Such is the message of protests.
Let someone whisper to our dear Madam CDA that protests don’t break the bilateral relationship but distrust and lack of accountability do. Excessive stealing in the local government, ministries, senate, national assembly, state and federal levels has already jeopardized everything our country has to offer. Do you want to tell us that Nigeria cannot raise €54m?
I strongly believe that Nigeria or Africa, in particular, does not need any financial aid – not anymore. If Hungary wants to send anything at all, let it be búzadara or paprika or even palinka. Jokes apart, no money, please! I repeat, enough of aid that will not be used for its purpose. Enough of aid that goes into a private pocket and often defeats the purpose.
Still, the question is this: If the Hungarian counterpart is saying the loan has not been finalized, how come Adamu gives the impression that his ministry was awaiting approval from Nigeria’s Minister of Finance to accept the Hungarian “aid credit or soft loan?” The EFCC must interrogate the minister and all those involved in this unnecessary loan. And they must be brought to book.
Apparently, there are many hidden messages and lessons in that August 24 orderly protest by some Nigerians in Hungary. The Hungarian police guided and guarded the protesters unlike what we have at home where protesters often met with tear gas as in the case of “Our-Mumu-Don-Do” protesters in Abuja where Charlie boy and his group were tear-gassed. It is also an experience for our embassy here to always prepare for such protests and take benevolent actions. Describing the protest as unpatriotic sounds too simple and uncalled for!
Well, if the embassy thinks that anyone who participated in the protest is UNPATRIOTIC (Capital mine), then I rather participate in such a protest against wasteful and useless loan than being a PATRIOT who steals from the Nigeria's common-wealth. That is food for thought for Madam CDA. No pun intended.
Meanwhile, the dramatic moment of the protest, as far as I am concerned, is the participation of some Hungarians, and especially when Rita says “I admire the courage of Nigerians saying NO to their government”.
On a final note, one thing I am not comfortable with is the Association President’s political rhetoric. The message is already loud and clear without political sentiment. I wished the brother had left out partisan politics in a moment meant to send a clear message to the government. A statement like “I am the number one Buharist in Hungary” is highly unnecessary and only makes him look like someone using the protest to beg for attention. He should have kept his “Buharistic inhaler” to himself. What of members or participants who are neither Buharist nor Jonathanian or whatever! Except for that, I support the protest and in my view, it is an act of genuine patriotism.
So I rest my case.