The Federal Government has said that the proposed amount of the 22.7 billion dollars requested by President Muhammadu Buhari in the External Borrowing Plan (2016 to 2018) would be invested in infrastructure development and not consumption.
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Finance, Mrs Zaynab Ahmed and Minister of State, Transport, Ms Gbemisola Saraki made this known in a public hearing before the joint house committees yesterday.
The house committees are Aids, Loans and Debt Management, and Rules and Business. According to the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s Total Public Debt Portfolio as at June 30 stood at $83.88 billion (¦ 25.7 trillion).
The 8th National Assembly had received the proposed projects for 2016 to 2018 Medium Term (Rolling) External Borrowing Plan put at 30 billion dollars.
The ministers, however, presented the same proposal at 22.7 dollars and gave reasons why the country should have funds as soon as possible.
They emphasised that the loans would promote infrastructure development and job creation.
The Minister of Finance said that the country had a revenue-generating challenge and stressed the need to invest in sustainable projects that would generate revenue. Ahmed said the loan would be “strictly for infrastructure development.
“So that we can address the deficit that we have. We know we must comply with some criteria; every kobo borrowed will be judiciously used,” she said.
Also, Minister of Works and Housing said Nigeria’s debt portfolio and debt service were being considered.
Fashola emphasised that investing in capital projects were needed to help the country achieve a self-sustaining economy.
“As we cannot ignore the concerns about debts, so we cannot ignore the concerns and demands for the provision of life-sustaining infrastructure.
“We have passed a budget of several hundreds of billions, but the reality is that over four years, we have never received full funding for any budget. And the reason is simple, there is a deficit, and we cannot finance it.
“Some of the roads we are investing in will last for upwards of 20 to 30 years if well maintained and not abused. For rail assets, usually, the tracks will last for at least 100 years. Power plants like the Mambilla will be there for many decades.
“So, we will be spending today’s money to secure tomorrow’s assets that will sustain our growing population and growing economy.”
The Minister of State for Transport also said there was the need to complete Kano-Lagos and Niger Delta coast rails.
Meanwhile, t he Debt Management Office says the public debt stock of the country is a cumulative figure of borrowings by successive governments over many years.
The DMO said this in a statement released in Abuja yesterday .
It said that it was not appropriate to attribute the Public Debt Stock to any particular administration.
It, however, explained that President Muhammadu Buhari submitted a request to the National Assembly for approval of the 2016 – 2018 Medium Term External Borrowing Plan for the sum of 22.718 billion dollars.
“This request is not a new one as being perceived but rather it represents those borrowings which have been submitted to the National Assembly but are yet to be approved before the expiration of the eighth Assembly.
“The requests in the Plan are proposed borrowings from multilateral and bilateral lenders.
“The proposed loans are concessional, semi-concessional, long-tenored and are for the purpose of financing infrastructure and other developmental social projects.
“All of which have multiplier effects in terms of job creation, business opportunities and overall increase in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product.
“Also, the benefits are long term and will serve generations of Nigerians.
“The proposed New Borrowing is consistent with the subsisting Debt Management Strategy which seeks to replace short term high –interest cost domestic debt.
“With low interest long term external debt and is one of the measures that is being implemented to moderate the level of Debt Service.
“The achievements in this regard are evidenced in the declining share of Domestic Debt in the Total Public Debt from over 83 per cent in December 2015 to about 68 per cent in June 2019,” it explained.
The statement noted that Nigeria had a ceiling of 25 per cent on the total public debt stock to GDP which is Debt to GDP and it had operated within.
It said that the ratios for Dec. 31, 2018 and June 30, 2019 were 19.09 and 18.99 per cent respectively.
“The Debt Service to Revenue Ratio (Debt Service/Revenue) has however, been higher than desirable and provides strong justification for the current drive to increase Oil and Non-Oil Revenues significantly.
“The debt service to revenue for the years 2017 and 2018 were 57 per cent and 51 per cent respectively.
“The debt service figures have grown as a result of the increase in the Debt Stock and relatively high domestic Interest Rates.
“Still on the issue of debt sustainability, when compared to a number of countries, Nigeria’s Debt to GDP is relatively low but the Debt Service to Revenue is relatively high.
“The United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada had Debt/ GDP ratios of 105, 85 and 90 per cent in 2017 which were much higher than that of Nigeria.
“But because they generate adequate revenues, their debt service to revenue for the same year were 12.5, 7.5 and 7.5 per cent respectively.
“The case was also similar for Brazil, South Africa, Kenya and Mexico who had higher Debt to GDP than Nigeria (74, 53, 57 and 46 per cent respectively but had lower debt service to revenue of 32.20, 11.4, 13.2 and 13.6 per cent respectively.
“This is clear evidence that Nigeria’s revenues are low. This is further demonstrated by Nigeria’s tax to GDP ratio of only six per cent in 2018 compared to Kenya’s 15.7, Morroco 21.8, Cameroon 12.2 and South Africa 27.5 per cent in 2017″
The statement pointed out that the above figures attested to the fact that Nigeria had a revenue challenge rather than a debt problem.
According to the statement, it is in this regard that all efforts are in top gear to increase revenues through measures such as the Finance Bill and Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative.
“Overall, the justification for the borrowing is that many of the projects in the plan are for the development of infrastructure in the areas of roads, railways, waterways and power which will help to unleash the potential of the Nigerian economy.
“Other loans such as those for the educational sector will contribute to the development of Nigeria’s human capital, while loans for Agriculture will be used to diversify the economy.
“There will also be funding for Development Finance Institutions to enhance access to finance for Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.”
Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.
FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer
The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.
Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media
The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.
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