ABUJA, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Nigeria has proposed writing off $13 million out of $48 million it is owed by Liberia as a contribution to consolidating peace there, President Umaru Yar’Adua said in a letter read out to the Senate on Tuesday.
He said Liberia’s debt burden was an obstacle to economic recovery in the small West African country, which emerged from 14 years of civil war in 2003 desperately poor and saddled with $4.5 billion in foreign debts.
“The Liberian government has made several passionate pleas to Nigeria to write off the debts,” Yar’Adua said in his letter, seeking approval from the Senate for the write-off.
“There is a potential risk of Liberia sliding back into anarchy if progress is not made in achieving sustainable economic development, which will undermine our previous efforts,” he said.
Nigeria was the main contributor to ECOMOG, a West African peace-keeping force that was active in Liberia during the war. It also helped end the conflict by granting asylum to Liberian warlord Charles Taylor in 2003.
Since taking the reins of Liberia following 2005 elections, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has travelled the world pressing creditor nations to cancel debts and give Liberia a chance to rebuild.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its top oil producer, benefited from its own debt relief deal in 2005 when it used windfall oil savings to pay back $12 billion to rich creditor nations who wrote off another $18 billion in return.