The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that the Federal Government is owed approximately N5.2 trillion in debts.
Ahmed who stated this during a two-day sensitization workshop on Project Lighthouse organised for ICT and Account Staff in federal ministries, departments, and agencies across the North Central Zone in Minna, on Thursday, said the debt is owed by over 5,000 companies and individuals.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of Special Projects in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Victor Omata, said that these debts are debt from the debtors spread across 19 ministries, departments and agencies.
She stated that companies and individuals owing the Federal Government agencies have refused to honour their obligations.
He cited the lack of visibility of these transactions, poor information sharing, and enforcement as reasons why these revenue loopholes remain.
“The Ministry through the consolidation efforts of the Debt Analytics and Reporting Application has been able to aggregate monumental debts of approximately N5.2 trillion. These debts came to the spotlight from data aggregated from over 5,000+ debtors across ten Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. The debt aggregation effort is still ongoing.
“These debts are in the form of debt liabilities to the Federal Inland Revenue Service; refunds to the government by companies who failed to deliver on projects for which payment had been effected, unpaid credit facilities granted to both corporate entities and individuals by the Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture; judgment debt in favour of Government, debts owed Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate by Insurance Companies among others.”
He stated that the Project Lighthouse initiative has enabled the aggregation of relevant economic and financial information from multiple agencies that hitherto did not share data.
Omata explained that the Project lighthouse project which is one of the portfolio projects under the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative is aimed at improving Federal Government revenues by targeting and increasing revenues from non-oil revenue sources.
“An important part of our policies and strategies is to leverage big data technology to help block revenue loopholes, recover debts, identify new revenue opportunities, optimize existing revenue streams, especially non-oil revenue as well as improve fiscal transparency,” he stated.
He called on government MDAs to cooperate and provide quality and relevant information which is debt-related to populate the platform as it would improve the economic base of the country adding that the project would soon be institutionalised.
The Secretary to the Niger State government, Ibrahim Matane, said that Project Lighthouse is a laudable initiative by the Federal Government as he expressed dismay over the quantum of debts owed by individuals and companies even at the local level.
He said that the project would cut excess and retrieve the debts owed which would help the government to use the money for other projects.
“It is time we focus on the money owed to the government. There is a pile of debts that contractors are owing the Federal Government and we are not paying attention to it. There are trillions of naira stacked up as debts, if these can be recovered, it would be a huge financial relief to the government.”