Right to economic self-determination and the role of international law in the contemporary sovereign debt bondage
: a case study of Nigeria

  • Aminu Abbas Abubakar

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    For many less developed African countries, the accumulation of sovereign debt at an unsustainable level has caused severe debt distress, and most significantly, years of abject submission and restraint on their freedom of economic policy choice. The growing tension over the use of conditionality by financial creditors as a tool for control and violation of economic self-determination of the debtor has become a significant concern notwithstanding some of the benefits of financial assistance in addressing the countries’ balance of payment and development project challenges. With the growing concern of the prospective new wave of a sovereign debt crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, the question of sovereign debt obligations and the right to economic self-determination makes this study worthwhile. The study examines the claims of the emerging pattern of financial debt bondage and the role of international law in pushing the neo-colonial agenda of the international financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Nigeria. The study explored the social context and the Nigerian experience with the sovereign debt conditionality vis-a-vis the local population’s right to economic self-determination and the complex pattern of authority and decision-making in the economic affairs of the State. An analysis of the research data obtained through observation and interviews with key state officials, members of civil society organisations, academics and other relevant stakeholders in Nigeria, revealed a growing lack of economic autonomy, debt trap and perpetual dependency caused by the IFIs conditionality, which deprived Nigerians of the right to effect fundamental decisions about their economic affairs freely. For that reason, the study re-engages the debate on the application of economic self-determination in Nigeria through the lens of the Third World Approach to International Law (TWAIL). Using concrete historical and social pieces of evidence, the study demonstrates the role of Liberal Democracy and Human Rights Law approaches to ‘internal self-determination’ as promoting the course of international financial institutions in their economic domination.
    Date of AwardMay 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMargaret Liu (Supervisor), Ayesha Shahid (Supervisor) & Stephen Hardy (Supervisor)

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