The Director-General of the Debt Management Office, DMO, Abraham Nwankwo, have announced that the national debt profiles of Nigeria recorded on December 31, 2016, amounted to a total of $57.39 billion (N17.36 trillion).
Nwankwo who stood before the senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts in Abuja on Thursday to defend his agency’s budget said the amount included domestic and foreign debts owed by the country as at the end of 2016.
According to him, the external debt profile stood at $11.41 billion (N3.48 trillion), while the domestic debt stock stood at $45.98 billion (N13.88 trillion). He added that the debt stock of N17.36 trillion owed by the country included debts of the Federal Government, the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The Director General of DMO explained that the domestic debt stock of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the 36 states and the FCT accounted for about 80 percent of the total debt, while the external debt stock accounted for about 20 percent. Nwankwo assured that though Nigeria’s debt profile was on the increase, the country would not beg for debt forgiveness since the economy is not in a precarious shape.
He said this when the committee chairman, Senator Sani asked why the debt profile had not been forgiven. Nwankwo said:
“In spite of the present state of the economy, the country is still counted as a strong economy among other countries. The economic indicators show that Nigeria has a strong economy.
“If borrowing would be genuinely committed to infrastructural development, it would go a long way in the move to develop the economy.”
On repayment of the national debt, he said the Ministry of Finance was making efforts to expand the nation’s tax base. This will be done by ensuring that people and companies that are not paying taxes begin to pay to boost the revenue base and reduce the need for borrowing.
Mr. Nwankwo further lamented that tax collection in Nigeria had been poor, which contributes to reduced revenue generation.
But Senator Sani expressed his dissatisfaction at DMO and he said that;
“It is shocking that in 2016, people don’t find it easy to feed their families, pay the fees of their children, pay their rents.
“These are two things, if you are talking from the point of how Nigerians live nowadays, you will not be able to say the country is not in the bad position to beg for debt forgiveness. But you are speaking naturally as an expert.”
The Senator also expressed concern that most of the states simply collect money, piled up so many debts for their children and grandchildren and have nothing to show for it. He pointed that many of them couldn’t pay salaries and despite cash allocation given to them from excess crude account to ecological funds. All of which gives rise to the national debt.
Recall that the Presidency had slashed its 2017 budget by N3 billion, even as N94.5 million was budgeted for the purchase of bulletproof tyres for state house officials.