Nigeria’s debt hits N36 tr 

From Uche Usim, Abuja

The Debt Management Office (DMO) has disclosed that Nigeria’s public debt, comprising domestic and external obligations of the Federal Government, the 36 State Governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has risen to N35.465 trillion as at June 30.

The Director General of the Debt Management Office, Ms. Patience Oniha, made the disclosure in a public debt presentation Wednesday evening.

According to her, Nigeria’s total Public Debt Stock was N33.107 trillion or USD87.239 billion, as at March 31, 2021 but rose to N35.465 trillion as at June.

This shows a N2.358 trillion rise in the debt stock from the end of the first quarter of the year to the end of the second quarter.

The breakdown of the public debt figure under review indicated that that external debt was N13. 711 trillion representing 38. 66 per cent of the total debt stock; while domestic debt was N21.754 trillion, representing 61. 34 per cent of the total debt obligations.

The Federal Government accounted for N11. 828 trillion of the external debt and N17. 632 trillion of the domestic debt.

States and FCT external debt stood at N1.883 trillion, with a domestic debt stock of N4. 122 trillion.

The breakdown of the external debt showed that the bulk of the debt was owed to multilaterals (World Bank Group and the African Development Bank Group) which accounted for 54.88 per cent.

The next highest category was the Commercial debt (Eurobonds and Diaspora bond) which accounted for 31.88 per cent; while bilateral (China, France, Japan, India and Germany ) stood at 12. 70 per cent and Promissory Notes 0. 54 per cent.

On the foreign exchange implications for debt service, especially the fall in the value of the naira, in recent times, the DMO boss said “we have initiated actions towards managing that risk.”

Oniha explained that the nation had several benefits from going to source funds which included  showcasing  Nigeria in a positive light in the international financial markets where large pools of capital are available.

In addition, she said “The sovereign Eurobonds serve as a benchmark on the back of which several local banks have issued Eurobonds. Amongst them are Zenith Bank, Access Bank, UBA, FBN, Ecobank Nigeria and Fidelity Bank. This window opened by the sovereign enabled these Nigerian Banks to raise Tier 2 Capital to meet regulatory requirements and enhanced their capacity to lend to, and, support local borrowers.

“Issuing Eurobonds has been a potent tool for building up Nigeria’s External Reserves. A healthy level of External Reserves supports the Naira Exchange Rate and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.

“Raising funds externally through Eurobonds to finance Budget Deficits reduces the level of sovereign borrowing in the domestic markets. The benefits of this are many: mitigates the risk of crowding out the private sector (more funds available at moderate rates for other borrowers in the domestic economy)

“The Eurobonds are also listed in Nigeria’s two (2) securities exchanges: The Nigerian Exchange Limited and FMDQ Securities Exchange Limited. This increases the size of these exchanges and diversity of instruments listed.

“The Eurobonds are actually issued as part of approved Government Borrowing Plan usually in the FGN’s Annual Budgets, for financing capital projects thereby reducing the infrastructure gap.”

The DMO boss explained that the issues of rising debt, high debt service to revenue ratio and utilization of borrowed funds were germane.

She added that members of the public should not lose sight of the facts which necessitated borrowing which included: “Huge Infrastructure Deficit , Recession (twice in the last six years), Consecutive Budget Deficits , Low Revenue Base, compounded by dependence on one source – crude oil which prices crashed and at a point, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic had no buyers.”

Ms. Oniha stressed that Nigerians must challenge themselves and support the federal government on the need to raise revenue.

She noted that the 5 per cent tax as a percentage of the Gross Domestic product (GDP) was too poor for Nigeria and that concerted efforts must be made to increase the nation’s revenue.

The DMO DG disclosed that work has already started on adding the federal government debt to the Central Bank of Nigeria which was at about N10 trillion at the beginning of the process.

She said, “We are working towards recognizing it, getting the proper approvals to include it in the public debt stock. Where we are is to get the necessary approvals to convert it into a tenured debt.”

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