The nation’s debt profile rose from N24.95 trillion to N25.7 trillion in the last three months. One year ago, it was N22.38 trillion.
The development showed that between April and June, the country’s obligations rose by N750 billion, and increased by N3.32 trillion when compared with the debt figures as of June 30, 2018.
Government has, so far, paid more than N800 billion in servicing the multiple obligations, which cut across domestic and foreign deals in the first half of 2019.
Total domestic debts stood at N17.38 trillion, with the Federal Government having more than three-quarters of the stockpile. These include FGN Bonds, N9.69 trillion; Nigerian Treasury bills, N2.65 trillion; Promissory Notes, N708 billion; FGN Sukuk, N200 billion; Nigerian Treasury Bonds, N126 billion; Green Bond, N26 billion; and FGN Savings Bond, N10.4 billion.
On the other hand, the external debt components are made up of multilateral deals worth $12.7 billion; bilateral, $3.3 billion; and commercial, $11.2 billion. Among these external debt obligations, the World Bank Group, China and Eurobond are top creditors, with over $23 billion claims on the country.
With the deficit plans in the ongoing 2019 budget, analysts warned that the country’s debt could hit N27 trillion by the end of the year. The debt sojourn has appeared endless amid a shallow diversification and economic challenges. Besides, the proposed 2020 budget has more than an N2 trillion deficit to be financed by further borrowing.
The situation has elicited reactions from some experts. An economist, Ayodele Akinwunmi, said the lack of commensurate investments with the level of borrowing could be traced to several sustainable subsidies that dominate the government’s spending.
“We have said it often that it is not good to borrow for consumption, but rather for investments that would ease bottlenecks in doing business, particularly infrastructure. There are a lot of subsidies from petroleum to electricity. We must change to benefit from these borrowings,” he said.
On his part, a development consultant, Jide Ojo, described the country’s rising debt profile, without commensurate infrastructural development, as heart-rending and disastrous. According to him, while sovereign indebtedness is not a bad idea, such funds should have been used on the productive sector of the economy, because it is not ideal to borrow to pay salaries and allowances.
He said that even in the proposed 2020 budget, Nigeria would be spending a humongous sum of N2.45 trillion on debt servicing alone.
“Ironically, Chatham House, UK, through The Economist magazine, in an October 10, 2019 article, revealed that $582 billion has been stolen from Nigeria since independence. Corruption is the main reason behind not having value for the huge debts Nigeria has piled up.
“Unfortunately, the National Assembly that should assess the borrowing plans to ensure that such borrowed funds are well utilised are working in cahoots with the executive branch to milk the country.
“In the 2020 budget, we are set to borrow additional N2.1 trillion. Despite exiting the debt trap about a decade ago, we are back to that inglorious era. I advise we borrow less, block revenue leakages, and expand our income generation. But mostly, governments must be accountable,” Ojo said.
Also, a fiscal governance campaigner, Eze Onyekpere, said the most unfortunate part of Nigeria’s high level of indebtedness is the absence of a value for money in terms of projects, services, goods, works, and construction. The debts, he said, apparently are for phantom projects that are not in tandem with the statutory obligation in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which prescribes debts only for capital projects and human development.
“The proceeds of the debts should have been invested in regenerating projects, either in tradable sectors or sectors that improve the ease of doing business and generally promote a favourable environment for the improvement of productivity and economic growth.
“This would have laid a foundation, as a basis for improving the capacity to repay. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is not about fears, but the certainty of a trajectory, which shows that if we continue in this direction, the country may sooner than later default on its debt repayment obligations.
“Debt service gulped over 54 per cent of all federal retained revenue in 2018 and as at the half-year (January to June 2019), it also gulped 54.2 per cent of federal retained revenue. The half-year retained revenue was N2.043 trillion while debt service was N1.109 trillion,” he said.