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Experts Task FG On Debt Profile

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Some financial experts in Lagos have advised the Federal Government to take aggressive steps to curb persistent increase in the domestic debt profile.

They gave the advise in an interview with our correspondent last Friday in Lagos.

Our correspondent recalls that the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Monday in Abuja that the nation’s domestic debt profile had increased to N5.9 trillion.

Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister of the nation’s economy spoke at a consultative meeting with the organised private sector and civil society organisations.

She said that with the debt profile, it had become expedient for Nigeria to slow down its domestic borrowing and diversify its earning as the current interest rate continued to widen the debt net.

Dr Isaac Nwaogwugwu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of Lagos, said that the rising internal debt profile was due to misplacement of priorities.

Nwaogwugwu said that most funds borrowed were diverted to other unproductive areas of the nation’s economy.

He said that persistent increase of the debt profile would put pressure on the economy and retard its growth.

“The ability of government to effectively use funds borrowed on specific projects would forestall further increase in domestic debt profile.

Nwaogwugwu, however, advised the government to diversify into other areas of untapped resources which would add value to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

He said that this would make government to have more revenues to spend on capital projects and reduce the debt profile.

Mr Eddie Osarenkhoe, the immediate past President, Finance Houses Association of Nigeria (FHAN), said that the expansionary increase in the government spending had contributed to rise in the internal debt level.

Osarenkhoe said that there were no effective monetary measures that could absorb the effect of the increasing government spending.

“If government can apply some discipline in its spending by placing its priorities right and tighten up its monetary policy, this will reduce the internal debt,’’ he said.

Osarenkhoe, however, urged both the State and Federal Governments to encourage indirect labour in projects execution to discourage over invoicing of contract sum.

Dr Kazeem Bello, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Ibadan told NAN in a telephone interview that inability of government to implement efficient fiscal policy had affected the debt profile.

Bello said that the fiscal policy could either be used to tighten losses in the economy, depending on what government intended to achieve.

He said that strict fiscal policy was needed to control the continuous rising of debt by reducing its expenditures.

Bello also advised government to prevent diversion of public funds meant to be pay for domestic debt and ensure proper supervision of contracts to avoid over estimation of project sum.

“The ability of government to tackle diversion of funds and over estimation of project sum would reduce the nation’s debt profile,’’ he said.

Mr Olumide Adegoke, the General Manager, Standard Alliance Insurance Ltd., urged government to block all the leakages to check the internal debt.

Adegoke said that high level of corruption in various system of the economy was the major leakage that had adversely affected the debt profile.

He said that corruption was an impediment to the national development and urged government to reduce it to the barest minimum.

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Lawmakers Want CBN To Halt Naira Devaluation

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The House of Representatives has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to urgently put in place a policy to check further devaluation of the naira to the United States dollar and other international legal tenders.
The House decried that while the Nigerian currency was losing value, others in Africa were appreciating.
At the plenary on Wednesday, the House unanimously adopted a motion moved by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Pensions, Mr Bamidele Salam, which warned the CBN of the implications of further devaluing the naira.
The motion was titled, ‘Matter of urgent public importance on the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria to urgently put in place monetary policies to stop the free fall of the naira against the dollar and other international legal tenders’.
Salam recalled that the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, while addressing the Bankers’ Committee at a summit on the economy in Lagos earlier in February, informed the committee about the naira devaluation against the dollar.
The lawmaker also quoted Emefiele as saying at the summit that the official exchange rate stood at N410 to the dollar.
“That is 7.6 per cent weaker than the rate of N379 published on the central bank’s website,” Salam noted.
According to the lawmaker, while the value of the naira relative to the dollar had declined by nine per cent in the last six months, the South African rand and Ghanaian cedi had appreciated by 11.4 per cent and one per cent, respectively.
Salam also recalled that the CBN adopted multiple exchange rates in 2020, in a bid to avoid an outright devaluation. 
He noted that the official rate used as a basis for budget preparation and other official transactions differed from a closely controlled exchange rate for investors and exporters known as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing Methodology.
He stressed that the naira had traded in a tight range between N400 and N410, while the NAFEX rate was different from the parallel market, considered illegal by the CBN, where the naira closed at 502.
Salam said, “The House is concerned that devaluation is likely to cause inflation because imports will be more expensive any imported goods or raw material will increase in price; aggregate demand increases, causing demand-pull inflation. Firms/exporters have less incentive to cut costs because they can rely on the devaluation to improve competitiveness.
 ”The concern is that the long-term devaluation may lead to lower productivity because of the decline in incentives.
 ”The House is further concerned that devaluation of the naira makes it more difficult for Nigerian youths especially in the IT sector, whose businesses are online and must necessarily transact businesses in the US dollars. 
“It also reduces real wages. In a period of low wage growth, a devaluation that causes rising import prices will make consumers feel worse off “.

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Four West African Countries To Buy Nigeria’s Unutilised Electricity

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Four West African countries, Niger, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso, are collaborating to buy the unutilised power produced in Nigeria. 
The Chairman of the Executive Board of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), Sule Abdulaziz, disclosed this at the WAPP meeting on the North core project in Abuja, on Wednesday. 
Abdulaziz, who is also the acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), said the four countries were collaborating to make the power purchase from Nigeria through the North core Power Transmission Line currently being built.
He explained, “The power we will be selling is the power that is not needed in Nigeria.
“The electricity generators that are going to supply power to this transmission line are going to generate that power specifically for this project. So, it is unutilised power”.
He said Nigeria was expecting new generators to participate in the energy export for the 875km 330KV Northcore transmission line from Nigeria through Niger, Togo, Benin to Burkina Faso.
Abdulaziz said, “In addition, there are some communities that are under the line route, about 611 of them, which will be getting power so that there won’t be just a transmission line passing without impact”.
The WAPP chairman noted that the project, funded by World Bank, French Development Council and the African Development Bank, had recorded progress, adding that the energy ministers would be addressing security issues for the project at another meeting in Abuja.
He said, “Nigeria has the greatest advantage among these countries because the electricity is going to be exported from Nigerian Gencos (generation companies). 
“So, from that, the revenue is going to be enhanced and a lot of people will be employed in Nigeria”.
The Secretary-General, WAPP, Siengui Appolinaire-Ki, said the cost of the project was about $570 million, adding that part of the investment in each country would be funded by that particular nation.
According to him, the countries in the partnership, including Nigeria, are also being supported by donors.
He said the funding agreement was ready as partner countries were awaiting the disbursements.
Appolinaire-Ki, however, said the donor agencies had said they needed a Power Purchase Agreement between the buying and the selling countries to be executed before releasing the fund.

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Reps Probe N275bn Agric Loans Under Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari

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The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the disbursement of loans and credit facilities by the Federal Government in the agriculture sector since 2009.
The period under review covers the administrations of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan as well as the present President, Muhammadu Buhari.
The resolution was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Chike Okafor at the plenary last Wednesday, titled ‘Need to investigate disbursements of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security’. 
Okafor said, from 2009 to date, the Federal Government had approved the disbursement of funds to farmers in various schemes to the tune of over N275billion, ranging from Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, to help farmers improve agricultural production and guarantee food security in Nigeria.
The lawmaker also noted that apart from increasing food supply, the schemes were to grant agricultural loans to large and small-scale commercial farmers to lower the prices of agricultural produce, generate employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.
He said, “The House is aware that since the approval, most farmers have not been able to access the loans due to stringent requirements being demanded by banks from prospective borrowers and the alleged siphoning of over N105billion meant for farmers by management of NIRSAL.
“The House is concerned that food production has not attained the expected level, despite the approval of over N275billion facilities to farmers. 
“The House is worried that the projected diversification of the economy from oil production to agricultural production and increase in agricultural output, food supply and promoting low food inflation will not be achieved if farmers are unable to access loans meant to increase agricultural production”.
Adopting the motion, the House resolved to mandate the Committee on Banking and Currency to “investigate disbursements and compliance of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security in the country”.

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