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Nigeria’s Public Debt Hits N25.7trn In June 2019 – Patience Oniha

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Nigeria’s public debt has risen to N25.7 trillion as at June 2019, according to Director-General of the office, Ms Patience Oniha.

Mrs Oniha disclosed this while responding to inquiries from the House Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Hon. Wole Oke, on the audit queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) on the status of the country’s debt profile, N51 billion health insurance scheme fund as well as over N6 billion outstanding repayment of pioneer consumer car finance loan for public servants as at 31st December, 2015, drawn from the Federation Account.

The AuGF also queried N1 billion repayment for 2015 in four phases, as well as repayment of additional N6.3 billion repayment schedule, as well as the monthly credit of N1.3 billion deducted from the Consolidated Revenue Fund accounts.

To this end, the Committee demanded a list of Commercial banks involved in the transaction(s).

While responding to question on the status of the country’s debt, Mrs Oniha affirmed that: As at June 2019, our debt profile is at N25.7 trillion; this includes the Federal, States governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“We call it the total public debt, out of this total, the Federal Government is responsible for 80 per cent of the debt,” she said.

Oniha said that external borrowing accounts for about 32 per cent of the total debt while the 68 per cent is domestic.

She explained that the DMO is an agency of government which began operations in 2000 following the country debt management problems of the country which lead to debt relief.

Oniha said that the agency is responsible for the management of public debts and its mandate includes contracting debts on behalf of the Federal Government.

According to the director-general, this is clear under the Fiscal Responsibility Act and provisions in the DMO Act.

“If you look back several years, over 85 per cent of budget deficits are funded by borrowing which the DMO undertakes as approved by the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly.

“We borrow from various sources, the multilateral, the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, the African Development Bank, China Exim and we also issue products in the International market.

“Locally, we are also very active in domestic borrowing, we issue treasury bills, Federal Government treasure bonds,“ she said.

Oniha said that DMO also serves as an advisory body for the Federal Government on debt management and to put debt at 25 per cent ratio to the GDP.

She explained that the agency does not receive any amount borrowed saying that it is paid directly to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who ensures that the money is used for what is borrowed for.

In response to the oAuGF queries, Mrs Oniha disclosed that all the issues have been responded to through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

She added that the Agency has submitted its audited reports up to 2018 in line with extant financial regulations.

The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Wole Oke said that it was important for parliament to have all the relevant information documented.

He said that the parliament needed additional facts and figures following the Minister of Finance revelations during the 2020 budget defence that revenue generation was a challenge in the country.

The Rep said that the committee is determined to check Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and to avert abuse of the law in the area of remittances of revenues generated.

Oke said that even when the MDAs have powers to spend the revenue generated, the committee is determined to ensure transparency and accountability.

“This country belongs to all of us, irrespective of the three arms the Constitution recognises, those in the Executives, Legislature and Judiciary are all Nigerians.

“We have to synergies to ensure this country progresses,” Oke said.

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