The Federal Government has projected that debt servicing will cost N10.43tn by 2025, according to the 2023-2035 Medium Term Expenditure Framework & Fiscal Strategy Paper.
This is a 182.66 per cent increase from the N3.69tn budgeted for debt service in 2022.
Multilateral agencies and economists have constantly warned the Federal Government about the rising cost of debt service, which can trigger a crisis for the country.
However, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, and the Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, have insisted that the country does not have a debt problem but a revenue challenge.
In a document by the DMO DG recently obtained by our correspondent, the DMO stated that high debt levels would often lead to high debt services and affect investments in infrastructure.
According to the DMO DG, “High debt levels lead to heavy debt service which reduces resources available for investment in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.”
In the document, she stressed the need for debt sustainability, which she defined as the ability to service all current and future obligations, while maintaining the capacity to finance policy objectives without resort to unduly large adjustments or exceptional financing such as arrears accumulation, debt restructuring, which could otherwise compromise the economy’s stability.
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Speaking at the launch of the World Bank’s Nigeria Development Update titled, ‘The urgency for business unusual,’ held recently in Abuja, the finance minister had admitted that Nigeria was struggling to service its debt.
She said, “Already, we are struggling with being able to service debt because even though revenue is increasing, the expenditure has been increasing at a much higher rate, so it is a very difficult situation.”
The International Monetary Fund had earlier warned that debt servicing might gulp 100 per cent of the Federal Government’s revenue by 2026 if the government failed to implement adequate measures to improve revenue generation.
According to the IMF’s Resident Representative for Nigeria, Ari Aisen, based on a macro-fiscal stress test that was conducted on Nigeria, interest payments on debts might wipe up the country’s entire earnings in the next four years.
Aisen said, “The biggest critical aspect for Nigeria is that we have done a macro-fiscal stress test, and what you observe is the interest payments as a share of revenue, and as you see us in terms of the baseline from the federal government of Nigeria, the revenue of almost 100 per cent is projected by 2026 to be taken by debt service.
“So, the fiscal space or the amount of revenues that will be needed and this, without considering any shock, is that most of the revenues of the Federal Government are now, in fact, 89 per cent and it will continue if nothing is done to be taken by debt service.”
Less than two months after Aisen’s warning, the finance minister disclosed that Nigeria’s debt service cost surpassed its revenue in the first four months of this year.
Debt service gulped N1.94tn between January and April 2022, as against a retained revenue of N1.63tn.
According to a recent PUNCH report, the Federal Government exceeded its debt service allocation by N1.15tn for the period between January and November 2021.
A copy of the public presentation of the 2022 approved budget by the finance minister showed that the Federal Government allocated N3.32tn for debt servicing in 2021.
However, the minister’s presentation document showed that a total of N4.2tn was spent on debt servicing in 11 months, indicating a difference of N1.15tn or 37.9 per cent of the money allocated for debt servicing for the period.
The PUNCH also reports that Nigeria’s debt servicing bill increased by 109 per cent, from N429bn in December 2021 to N896bn in March 2022.
A report by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa has disclosed that Nigeria and 10 other Economic Community of West African States countries are currently in debt distress based on debt sustainability analysis.
The 10 other countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
It was further disclosed in the report that public debt accumulation for these countries was becoming unsustainable and needed to be addressed to avert the looming debt crisis.
The report warned that the possibility of a debt crisis in Nigeria would adversely affect public and private investments, as well as other sectors of the country.
The World Bank recently said that Nigeria’s debt, which might be considered sustainable for now, was vulnerable and costly.
According to the Washington-based global financial institution, the country’s debt was also at risk of becoming unsustainable in the event of macro-fiscal shocks.
Experts have kicked against the Federal Government’s proclivity for debt, which they have described as unsustainable.
Economists slam FG’s debt proclivity
The Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, said that the Nigerian economy had been characterised by diverse economic vulnerabilities, which included rising public debt and debt service burden.
He said, “Debt service to revenue ratio for the first four months of the current year is over 100 per cent. The implication of this is that the actual revenue of the government over the period is not sufficient to service debt. Therefore, financing of the operations of government – personnel cost, overhead cost, capital expenditure, and even part of the servicing of the debt – will have to come from additional borrowing. These portend severe vulnerabilities for the Nigerian economy.”
A Professor of Development Macroeconomics at the University of Lagos, Prof Olufemi Saibu, criticised the government for over-borrowing.
He said, “I think we are over-borrowing. We continue to rely on international benchmarks, which make us lazy in terms of revenue generation.”
Prof Saibu urged the government to lessen its huge expenditure costs and channel money into more productive sectors of the economy.
“With our current heavy infrastructure debt financing and the low productivity in the local economy, the government needs to find a way of reducing its expenditures. We need to redirect the government’s finances to areas that are productive and borrow less for consumption,” he said.
In addition, Prof Saibu said that the government needed to look inwardly and borrow domestically rather than externally, which would lessen the burden of debt service.
He said the government should stop saying the country had the capacity to borrow more, and refrain from ballooning already outsized debts.
Prof Saibu advised that the government should engage the private sector in the area of infrastructure development to reduce the weight on the public sector.
A Professor of Development Economics at Babcock University, Prof Adegbemi Onakoya, said that borrowing was not an issue but the value obtained from it.
He also said that Nigeria had a revenue problem, which had made the country rely more on debt financing.
Prof Onakoya also said that there was a problem when money borrowed was not judiciously applied for productive purposes or programmes that would help production.
2023-2025 MTEF/FSP: 11.3 trillion Deficit Poses Fresh Threat To Nigeria’s Economy
The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2023- 2025 which received the Senate’s attention through its Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan last week, laid bare not prospects, but challenges that would confront Nigeria in the 2023 fiscal year.
The MTEF/FSP is a policy document that speaks to the budgetary needs of the individual Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, thus, it’s a preview of the annual appropriation to be soon laid before the joint session of the upper and lower legislative houses.
Traditionally, the presentation of the annual budget precedes the passage of MTEF/FSP at both Chambers. Though President Muhammadu Buhari was expected to present the 2023 budget in the first week of October, 2022, but for lack of space due to the ongoing N30 billion National Assembly Complex renovation, the budget documents would separately be submitted to the upper and lower legislative Chambers.
The separate submission, which President Buhari will not be physically present, was confirmed on Tuesday by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila after the resumption of lawmakers from a two-month annual recess.
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The MTEF/FSP public hearing afforded the Finance Committees of lower and upper Chambers to interrogate Chief Executives of the agencies of government on the next year proposal submitted to the Budget Office of Federation before they were made available to lawmakers for legislative debate.
The week-long MTEF/FSP public debate in the Senate, DAILY POST, observed, unearthed gross under performance of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, even after over 70% 2022 budgetary releases to them by the Federal Ministry of Finance. The gross under performance, particularly the revenue generating agencies, in the reasoning of Senate Committee on Finance members would put the budget deficit of N11.03 trillion at risk. The total budget for 2023, which was sighted penultimate week by DAILY POST in Abuja, stood at N19.76 trillion, out of which the Federal government would have to source for funds to finance about 60% of the total budget.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan after listening to presentation by some revenue generating agencies which could not meet their annual target, threatened that the National Assembly may give effect to ‘the Stephen Orosonye Report’ which recommended the merger of over 400 parastatals of government to save cost.
He urged the heads of government agencies to wake up to their responsibilities, vowing that funds must be raised to fund the deficit. He stressed the readiness of the parliament to amend the relevant provisions of the Finance Act 2021 as amended to assist revenue generating agencies of government in generating revenues.
The lawmaker insisted that the FG cannot go cap in hand to borrow, while he insisted that heads of revenue generating agencies must be creative enough to generate funds to cater for the deficit.
He said: “Heads of revenue generating agencies should look for other sources of revenue generation to reduce borrowing and ultimately the deficit in the nation’s budget.
“Any agency that fails to meet its targeted revenue generation has outgrown its usefulness and will be reduced to a department under the relevant Ministry.”
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed had expressed concern on the budget deficit, citing the plethora of challenges confronting the nation and the inability of government agencies to generate funds.
The Minister disclosed that over 70% of the 2022 budget has been released to various government agencies, a feat she said was in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to properly fund agencies of government.
A member of the Committee and Senator representing Niger East Senatorial district, Sani Musa, pointed out that the challenges facing the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, would pose a serious handicap to the government in view of the fact Nigeria runs a monolithic economy.
Musa added that the government must begin to look away from oil and gas to other things as an alternative means of funding its 2023 budget.
“The budget of this country has been in deficit and the only thing we can do is to amend so many things in the Finance Act,” he said.
Meanwhile, the full scale oil theft in the Niger Delta, which has crippled Nigeria’s ability to meet its 2.2 million barrels of crude oil OPEC quarter, was a source of concern to all stakeholders.
Multichoice, Nigerian Senate Differ On Pay-per-view
The dominant broadcast service provider, Multichoice Nigeria Thursday disagreed with the proposed plan of the Senate on reduction of the tariffs being paid by viewers.
The Multichoice was the only broadcast service provider to vehemently opposed the proposed pay-per-view out of almost all stakeholders that turned out at a one day public hearing organized by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on “Pay-TV Hikes And Demand for Pay-per-view subscription model,” headed by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
The broadcast service provider in its submission to the Committee defended its stand and cited challenges in the communication industry as reasons there should be price hike, particularly the lack of power and insecurity rocking the nation.
In his oral submission at the Committee, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Multichoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said the pay-per-view will hurt the economy, insisting that for the past 27 years of their operations, the model being planned by the legislators would not augur well despite Nigeria’s free market economy.
He urged the parliament to allow them to determine what Nigerians pay, noting that Nigeria doesn’t have the.consucove environment, either.
“Pay television services compete with other services for subscribers’ disposable income, including existing broadcasting services (public, commercial free-to-air and other pay television services), and other entertainment services, such as YouTube, Facebook, cinemas, video rental outlets and DVD retailers.
“The demand for pay television services fluctuates and is very sensitive to the price a subscriber has to pay and affordability factors.”
The position of Multichoice was contrary to the of the TSTV, which admitted that they have been operating pay-per-view from inception after they were licensed to operate, stressing that the current model of subscription made viewers to pay for channels they don’t watch.
Ugbe said: “If the subscription fees are either too high or too low, the pay television service will fail. If the subscription fees are too high, the subscribers will unsubscribe, or will not subscribe in the first place, and the business will be unable to gain the critical mass necessary for its survival.”
“In determining subscription fees, MultiChoice takes into account many factors, including inflation, increasing input costs, ever escalating costs of technical upgrades, the impact on subscribers and the exchange rate fluctuations.
The position of TSTV, another broadcast service provider seems to be aligned with the thinking of the Senate, given that citizens have decried the price hike in subscription to Multichoice, a development that brought about the Senate constituting the Ad-hoc Committee to lose into the grievances of citizens.
In the similar vein, Startimes Nigeria posited that the pay-per-view was sustainable in as much as viewers would subscribe and pay for only channel of their choice, instead of the monthly subscription which costs them move.
Chairman of a Committee and the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Abdullahi Sabi and Senator Abba Moro maintained that the Committee would weigh all presentations before taking a decision.
Before the meeting was adjourned ‘sine die’, the Chairman promised to look into other submissions by stakeholders who were unavoidably absent before reverting its report to the Senate for legislative debate.
PENGASSAN Fingers Military In 600,000-barrel Daily Stolen
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria has said that the military should be held responsible for the high rate of crude oil theft in the country.
This was made known at the Senate’s investigation into oil lifting and theft on Wednesday, which was chaired by Senator Akpan Bassey.
The National President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, said oil theft was a collaborative crime between military personnel assigned to protect oil installations and the locals running illegal refineries.
He alleged that the military and other security agencies were aiding and abetting criminals to steal the crude with the active connivance of the regulatory agencies in charge of the nation’s petroleum industry.
Osifo, therefore, challenged the regulatory agencies and various security outfits to be alive to their responsibilities in order to solve the problems.
He specifically alleged that men of the Amphibious Brigade in Port Harcourt and their counterparts in the Navy, in connivance with superior officers at different times, joined the locals in the theft.
Osifo alleged, “One of the greatest problems we have, which nobody has highlighted, is that there is strong connivance of our security forces in the crime. There is no doubt about this. From our Army to our Navy officers, we have information that they pay their superiors to post them to some areas in the Niger Delta.
“I can authoritatively inform this committee that men of the Nigerian Army and the Navy pay their superiors to be posted to Niger Delta. Even when the former Commander of the Amphibious Brigade in Port Harcourt was removed, many of the men in the command resisted being posted out due to the ‘lucrativeness’ of their operational areas.
“I think the people who have a solution to this problem are not even the ones sitting here. They are the ones you will invite behind the camera”.
Also, the Executive Commissioner, Corporate Services and Administration in Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Mr Jide Adeola, said about 600,000 barrels of crude oil were stolen per day.
He said, “As of today, Nigeria produces 1.23million barrels of crude oil per day as against 1.8million barrels targeted, leading to total revenue loss, as of today, of $2.1billion or N877billion.”
Worried by the submissions, the Chairman of the Committee, Akpan Bassey, said he had never seen “economic sabotage of this magnitude and it must be stopped.”
“The required political will through the instrumentality of legislative intervention shall surely be done after meeting other critical stakeholders like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, the Military, etc,” he noted.
The Senate also lamented that the country was losing over 900,000 barrels per day to oil thieves, stressing that the massive oil theft would crumble the economy.
Bassey said if the ongoing theft was not immediately stopped, it would also frustrate the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act passed into law last year by the National Assembly.
Speaking at the investigative hearing on the experience of the committee during its oversight visit to major platforms in the Niger Delta, the senator expressed shock over the humongous loss of national oil revenues due to oil theft and sabotage.
Bassey stated that the committee discovered that pipelines carrying crude oil could not be identified because they were covered with no right of way, making it difficult to monitor these pipelines.
He told the stakeholders that the shortfall in the country’s oil revenues was not caused by oil theft alone but also by the inability to have evacuation access, effective metering and monitoring by operators as well as the unwillingness of security agencies to checkmate the incidents.
He lamented that the Bonny Terminal, which hitherto produces 60,000 barrels per day, had not produced a single barrel for the past seven months.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who had declared the investigative hearing open, said it was the view of the Senate that oil theft impacted negatively on the country’s oil production and revenues, hence its decision to set up the committee to come up with a workable template to arrest the situation.
Lawan, who was represented at the occasion, also charged stakeholders to come up with a plan to end this national challenge.
He said, “It is regrettable that the criminals are perpetrating the unfortunate crime with the active connivance of stakeholders, including security personnel.
“The Senate will stop at nothing to unveil the criminals behind the crime and that is why we set an ad hoc committee to unravel the thieves and come up with workable solutions to end the menace, before December this year.”
A member of the committee, the senator representing Kano South senatorial district, Senator Kabir Kaya, noted that while Nigeria’s OPEC quota was 1.8 million BPD, the country currently produces 1,2 million BPD, showing a shortfall of 600,000 BPD. He challenged the stakeholders and the operators to find a solution to this problem.
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