The Senate has raised alarm that with its approval of $22.7billion foreign loan request by President Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week, the total debt profile of Nigeria now stands at N33 trillion.
Speaking at the one day public lecture organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies ( NILDS), on Public Debt in Nigeria : Trend, Sustainability and Management in Abuja, the Deputy Chairman of Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Muhammad Enagi Bima Enagi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Niger South, said borrowing had always served as veritable financial platforms for many countries of the world in running their economies.
According to him, judicious utilization of such loans for intended projects and servicing the debts appropriately have also been problems for some countries, particularly the developing ones as Nigeria.
This is even as the Director -General, Debt Management Office, DMO, Mrs Patience Oniha, expressed fears that economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic might incapacitate and frustrate Nigeria from servicing its debts appropriately.
Speaking further, Senator Bima noted that realities on ground in the country, in terms of required infrastructure and debt accumulations between 2006 and now, were not in anyway connected.
He, however, explained that many Nigerians were worried whenever they heard that their government was seeking one loan or the other.
He said: “From a low ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) of about 3.4 percent at independence, Nigeria’s total public debt as at September 30, 2019, according to the Debt Management Office, DMO, stands at about N26.2 trillion (or $85.4 Billion).
“Of this amount, total domestic debts is about N18 trillion (or $58.4 Billion), which is 68.45percent of the total public debts. With the recent approval of the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan, the total debt stock would be about N33 trillion and 21% Debt/GDP ratio.
“The big question in the minds of average Nigerians aware of this fact is What did we do with the money? In other words, where did the money go?
“What do we have to show as a people for these huge debts accumulated over the last four decades or so?”
According to him, in stopping the ugly trend, the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, is more than desirous to monitor the executive on prompt utilization of new loans being sought, to save the country from going back to the pre-2005 and 2006 debt burden era
Senator Bima said further: “The consequence of these borrowings is that the sheer magnitude of the Nations Annual Debt Servicing put at about N2.47 trillion for 2020 makes the provision of basic but essential amenities and infrastructure in the country almost impossible without further borrowings.
“Clearly, Nigeria needs to get its public finance in order to avoid the potential fiscal and financial crisis ahead of the nation.
“The current debt situation in Nigeria needs to be properly managed and every borrowed Naira or Dollar, carefully deployed, especially in the face of the continued dependence of the nation’s economy on exported crude oil, with its usual price volatility.
“Borrowings must be project-tied and not just to support budget deficit. Furthermore, the projects must be such to grow the economy and bequeath laudable infrastructure and not debt for future generations.’’
In her remarks, DMO Director-General, Patience Oniha, who was quick to say that there was no cause for alarm with regard to the total budget profile of the country which she puts at $85.390bn or N26trillion as at September 2019, said the country’s total debt stock as at 2006 when she exited the Paris and London Club of Creditors was $17.349million.
She, however, noted that annual deficit budgeting and poor revenue generation forced the country into taking loans which has accumulated to N26trillion as at September last year.
She said: “Concerns have been expressed about the growth in Nigeria’s debt stock since the exit from the Paris and London Club of Creditors.
‘’It is true that the public debt swtock has grown from US$17,349.69 million in 2006 to USD85,390.82 million as at September 30, 2019.
“However, it must be recognised that the current debt stock is the result of cumulative borrowings by successive governments to finance budget deficits and various infrastructure projects.”
Oniha explained that in order to ensure that the public debt was sustainable, the Debt-to-GDP Ratio was set at 25%, lower than the 56% advised by the World Bank and IMF, adding that the total public debt-to-GDP had remained within the 25% limit, standing at 18.47% in September 2019.
“This is however, only one measure of debt sustainability, the other equally important measure is the debt service-to-revenue ratio and this is where Nigeria needs significant improvement.
‘’Actual Debt Service to Revenue Ratio has been high at over 50% since 2015, although it dropped to 51% in 2018 from 57% in 2017. The relatively high Debt Service to Revenue Ratio is the result of lower revenues and higher debt service figures.
“Whilst Nigeria’s debt is sustainable, recent developments in the global environment induced by COVID -9, already suggest a less than favourable economic outlook with implications for Nigeria,” Oniha said.
FCCPC: Electricity Topped Consumers’ Complaints In 2020
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it received the highest consumer related complaints from the electricity sector in 2020.
Speaking in Abuja on Sunday, Babatunde Irukera (pictured), chief executive officer of FCCPC, said the banking and telecommunication sectors ranked second and third respectively on the complaints chart.
He added that the aviation sector was ranked fourth.
“Our complaints resolution team is still a very small team of people and they are dealing with thousands of complaints,” Irukera said.
“We are looking at expanding capacity to have more hands handling the complaints but the real game changer in handling complaints better and faster is for companies to start doing it.
“The person who has the least open complaint in our resolution team has about 800 complaints across sectors and that is one person. If you multiply it by 12 to 15 persons, you will imagine the number of complaints.
“Being able to expand to a point where we are able to operate more efficiently, we will keep training, leveraging technology, the more we leverage technology, the more efficiently we can do our work.”
The commission was established by the 2018 Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) to promote fair, efficient and competitive markets in the Nigerian economy, facilitate access by all citizens to safe products, and protect the rights of all consumers in Nigeria.
FEC Approves CBN’s Request To Renovate National Theatre For N21b
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said on Wednesday that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the ministry of information and culture for the renovation of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos.
He spoke at the end the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
The federal government, on July 12, 2020, handed over the national theatre to CBN and the bankers’ committee to signify the kick-start of the renovation process.
“This is a landmark approval because, it has paved the way for investment in the creative industry as part of the resolve of this government to create at least one million jobs in the next three years in the creative industry,” Mohammed said.
“The CBN and banker’s committee are willing to invest N21.894 billion to renovate, refurbish and commercialization (run it profitably) of the national theatre complex. The MoU has a life span of 21 years after which it will revert back to government.”
The minister assured that no job will be lost after the national theatre is renovated, adding that the “brand new national theatre, an event centre” will instead create more jobs.
Asides from this, FEC approved about N9.43 billion to complete the digital switch over (DSO) in broadcasting; N8.98 billion for a new national ICT park in the federal capital territory (FCT) to coordinate public and private ICT hubs in Nigeria.
The council also approved a new national policy on aging which would take care of the needs of the aged people across Nigeria; approved the ministry of water resources memo to construct Damaturu water supply project in Yobe state worth N8.43 billion.
Adesina identifies Debt Service As Greatest Risk To Nigeria
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has warned that debt service is Nigeria’s greatest risk, even as he urged the federal government to take steps to increase tax revenue in the face of dwindling oil income.
The Director of Communications and Liaison of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Abdullahi Ahmad, stated that he spoke virtually at the recently held First Annual National Tax Dialogue .
Dr. Adesina was quoted as saying that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s economy shrank “by 3% in 2020 on account of falling oil prices and the effects of the lockdowns on economic activities,” adding, “with shrinkage in oil revenues, debt service payments pose the greatest risk to Nigeria.”
He stressed further that for Nigeria to overcome the pandemic, “taxes must form a significant percentage of government revenue. Digitalization of tax collection and tax administration is critical to ensure greater transparency of the tax system, widening of the tax base, while mitigating compliance risks and encouraging voluntary tax compliance.”
Tax experts and stakeholders at the event called for the automation of tax collection by the FIRS through data and intelligence in order to ease tax collection, as well as, improve revenue.
Executive Secretary, African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), Mr. Logan Wort, harped on the place of technology in generating revenue for the country in a post-Covid economy.
Mr. Wort, who joined the dialogue virtually from South Africa, stated, “Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM) is expected to contribute at least 75% to 90% on average per country” in the post-Covid era, adding that Nigeria and other African countries should note, “improved tax revenue will have to take prime position” in the scheme of things.
He urged Nigeria to pay serious attention to e-commerce and the digital economy sector where big, trans-national digital conglomerates like Google, Netflix and Uber operate and make huge, tax-free profits as a possible way of increasing tax revenue generation.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana in e-commerce taxation, projected to fetch Ghana $450 million in annual tax revenue.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was chairman of the Dialogue, was quoted as lauding the FIRS “for its performance in the 2020 fiscal year, despite operating in the most challenging period. The Service not only collected N4.9 trillion in taxes, achieving 98% of its target; only 30.6% of this was attributed to Petroleum Profits Tax, from what used to be over 50%”.
He urged participants to, “interrogate how Nigeria can further deepen the use of technology to improve tax compliance nationally and across sub-nationals.”