ABUJA, July 22- Parts of northern Nigeria ravaged by six years of conflict caused by Boko Haram Islamists could be revitalised with around $2.1 billion in World Bank funding, according to a government spokesman.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman Femi Adesina said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the World Bank had pledged the money after talks in Washington.
But the bank itself was less definitive, indicating a deal was not yet finalised.
“The World Bank will spend the $2.1 billion through its IDA (International Development Agency), which gives low interest rate loans to governments,” Adesina said.
“The first 10 years will be interest free, while an additional 30 years will be at lower than (the) capital market rate.”
His statement came as Buhari was in Washington for talks with the US administration to kick-start bilateral relations that were strained under his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama hailed the 72 year old former military ruler’s election win in March, which was the first time in Nigeria’s history that an incumbent was defeated at the ballot box.
Buhari has made crushing the Boko Haram insurgency his top priority. The conflict, which began in 2009, has so far claimed at least 15,000 lives and more than 750 since Buhari became president on May 29.
He has pinpointed lack of development, unemployment as well as social and economic deprivation in the Muslim majority north as a key driver of radicalisation.
A World Bank spokesman told AFP it had only “referred to the $2.1 billion available from the IDA, as well as to available IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) support, which could be lent to Nigeria, in consultation with the Nigerian authorities as to their priorities”.
“The World Bank Group reaffirmed its readiness to support the government in addressing the development challenges in the country, and the northeast and the north in particular,” he added.