Nigeria’s external debt to total revenue increased from 8 per cent in 2011 to 400 per cent in 2020, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has said.
Sanusi lamented the situation while participating in an online roundtable discussion tagged, “Debt Relief for a Green and Inclusive Recovery in Nigeria”, organised by Heinrich Böll Foundation.
The former CBN governor said Nigeria has a debt services ratio of up to 90-96 per cent but there are certain other elements of debts that analysts have not paid attention to.
He said, “If you go through the CBN statistical bulletin, in 2011, the total federally collected revenue from all sectors was N18.9trillion at N165 to the dollar. This will have placed federally collected revenue in 2011 at $55.5billion.
“Meanwhile, debt at that time was $5billion, so, we had an external debt to external revenue of about 8 per cent in 2011. By 2020, we have an external debt of about $33.4billion but all revenues in 2020 were about $8.3billion. So, it has moved from 8 per cent to 400 per cent between 2011 and 2020.
“And this is a serious red flag that I’ve not seen being pointed out in the conversation around debt sustainability especially given the facts that exports are yet to be diversified at the book of our revenues from oil sectors given what we’ve seen and what have been discussed today about the prospect of hydrocarbons as we move into a greener world.”
Nigeria’s debt position has been a source of concern for development experts in recent years, especially in the midst of dwindling oil revenue.
Sanusi, who was recently deposed as Emir of Kano, noted that in measuring debt sustainability, the debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is a useless metric.
“You do not service debt out of GDP, you service debt out of revenues,” he said.
“If only 20 per cent of your GDP is paying taxes, if you have a debt GDP ratio of 20 per cent, you are likely to have a debt service to revenue ratio of 100 per cent.
“So, for a long time, I have been concerned about this idea that if (having) 25, 30 or 35 per cent debt to GDP ratio is fine, because you’ve got countries that are activating 90 per cent.”
He added that in the countries where debts to GDP numbers are high, tax is a major component of government revenues.
Sanusi also explained that high interest rates with high debts could lead to difficult financial situations.
He also explained further that another key part of the nation’s debt profile is the components of bilateral loans, of which China is a major player, with $3.2billion of Nigeria’s $4.1 bilateral debt, that’s about 78 per cent.
He explained that any talk about debt sustainability has to involve China as a very dominant player.
The former CBN governor agreed that the call for debt relief is in the right direction, but the nation needs to show serious commitment and review the structure of its government and economy.
He noted that as countries begin to lift Covid-19 restrictions on travels, there will be increased demand for forex on travel, further putting pressure on the country’s exchange rate.
“When the world reopens and people start travelling, that is going to lead to an increase in demand on forex for travel and that is going to exert further pressure on the balance of payments.
“Now, these are the kinds of considerations I think we need to bear in mind when we talk about the sustainability of a debt situation.
“Honestly, I think debt relief is very necessary if this country is going to have the fiscal space to pursue any kind of developmental objectives. We can’t be spending 90 or 100 per cent of our revenue on debt service and don’t have anything to invest in development.”
According to Sanusi, the country needs to invest in education and agriculture, stressing that these two sectors will help play a key role in lifting Nigerians out of poverty.
Part of the problem Nigeria faces, he said, is that there has been significant under-investment in education and health care, and the productivity of agriculture.
“And these are the kinds of things that we need to lift people out of poverty and bring sustainable growth,” he argued.
The former chief executive of First Bank also explained that the rapid rate of growth in population is a source of concern, adding that the country needs to have social policies around demographic growth.
“There are parts of this country where the fertility rate is more than eight (8) live births per woman, and again some societies are also polygamous,” he said.
“Now there’s no way that you are going to continue growing at 3.4 or 4 per cent when your economy is growing at a slower rate and expect to deal with poverty. And that is an unsustainable model.”
He also noted that setting up factories could help lead to economic growth.
He said, “One of the issues I have with people when they talk about removing the subsidy on electricity tariffs and how the tariffs are going to go on to avert some problems is that we worry so much about tariffs because we use electricity for consumption and the buck of the population is yet to understand that electricity is an import into production. You can’t burn it.
“So, if you take away the subsidy by having a cost recovery tariff, you could put that money into small and medium enterprises that will turn that electricity into real production of goods and services and lift people out of poverty.
“Now, it doesn’t have to be fossil fuels electricity, you can in the same way, for example, use these bonds to encourage setting up factories to produce solar panels. People talk about renewable energy but if you are going to be importing solar panels from China or the UK, it is not as effective as if you set up factories to produce these panels in Nigeria. You’ve got all the raw materials you need to produce solar panels.
“So, set up factories, produce these panels and then the subsidy come in, in form of making these panels affordable and the kind of financing you give to the micro-enterprises to turn this renewable energy into goods and services.
“Not just about producing renewable energy that will continue to be fuelling television sets, water kettles, video games, no; we want electricity so that micro, small and medium enterprises can begin to generate.”
Sanusi argued further that a very smart way of dealing with debt relief is to effectively ensure that government puts in the right policies and that money goes into the right areas that will lead to sustainable development.
He noted that what happened when debt relief was granted to Nigeria in the past was that Nigeria went back on spending on overheads, unnecessary petroleum subsidies, and subsidies on fertilisers, which has not helped the country.
“What happened in the past was that we had this debt relief and then we went back to borrowing money, spending on salaries, overheads, and unnecessarily petroleum subsidies all sorts of fertilisers sub discount and those are the kind things that need to end,” he lamented.
“But we also need to bear in mind that as we take them out, the way to minimise impact is to address the real SDGs considerations, education, healthcare, renewable energy accompanied by training, the productivity of agriculture and this is really about the policy deficit that we’ve had in the last few decades,” he said.
NHRC Seeks Prioritisation Of Children’s Rights In National, State Budgets
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, has called for the prioritisation of child rights issues in both the national and state budgets.
Ojukwu, represented by Abdulrahman Yakubu, director, political and civil education rights in the commission made the call in Abuja at an event organised by the commission to commemorate the 2021 International Day for the African Child (DAC), celebrated every June 16.
He also called for alignment of national implementation plans of the Child’s Rights Act with international action plans like the Agenda 2040 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda to ensure a more holistic and measurable implementation outcome
“While progress has been made on the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act and Laws across the states that have adopted it, challenges bordering on non-prioritisation of child rights in the budget, poverty.
“Harmful traditional practices, inadequate access to educational and health services, armed conflicts and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to slow down process across all sectors.
“I call on all concerned Ministry , Departments and Agencies and child-focused organisations to explore new tools and innovations like technology and social media to accelerate the implementation of child-based laws and policies in the country,” he said.
He also called for the adoption and implementation of measures to ensure universal health coverage, access to quality health-care services for all while closing all gender and vulnerability gaps.
Ojukwu also called for equal access to compulsory and quality education to all children, including children in rural communities, the girl child, children living with disabilities, children in conflict and humanity settings.
“We must address the root cause of conflict and engage early warning mechanisms to eliminate the impact of armed conflicts on children” he said.
The executive secretary said the DAC serves as a strong advocacy and sensitization tool for implementation of children’s rights.
“Beyond honouring the memory of the fallen heroes, the DAC celebration calls for introspection and self-assessment by the AU member states on the level of child rights implementation in respective countries.
The theme for the 2021 DAC celebration as selected by the African committee of Experts on the Rights and welfare of the child, he said, 30 years after the adoption of the charter: accelerate the implementation of the Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children.
In a goodwill message, the Country Representative of UN Women Nigeria, Ms Comfort Lamptey called for education-in-emergencies in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
The country representative, represented by Patience Ekeoba, National Programme Officer, UN Women Nigeria, Lamptey said that children of these three conflict affected states need education -in-emergencies.
“ In the north east of Nigeria, 2. 8 million children need education -in-emergencies support. No fewer than 802 schools remained closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed with another 1, 392 damaged but repairable in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
“In addition to this, the COVID-19, insecurity and humanitarian crisis and other prevailing challenges have presented new and additional challenges,” she said
“A lot of countries in Africa have robust legal frameworks policies, conventions and other frameworks that guarantee the rights of the child,” she added.
Court Rejects EFCC’s Request To Amend Charge In Ex-NNPC GMD’s Trial
A Federal High Court in Abuja has rejected an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to amend its charge in the $9.8million, £74,000 fraud trial of an ex-Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling, yesterday, held that granting the application by the EFCC would amount to varying a subsisting judgment given by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on April 24, 2020, where it, among others, ordered Yakubu to enter defence in relation to counts three and four of the six counts originally contained in the charge on which he was arraigned.
Justice Mohammed was emphatic that allowing the prosecution (the EFCC) to amend the charge was tantamount to disobeying the subsisting order made by the Court of Appeal in its judgment of April 24, 2020.
The EFCC claimed that its operatives, acting on a tip-off, raided Yakubu’s house located on Chikun Road, Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna South Local Government Area of Kaduna State on February 3, 2017, and recovered the $9,772,800 and £74,000 cash kept in a fire proof safe.
It arraigned Yakubu on March 16, 2017, on a six-count charge relating to money laundering offences.
He was among others, accused of failing to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution, which borders on money laundering and intent to avoid a lawful transaction under law, transported at various times to Kaduna, the aggregate sum of $9,772,800 and £74,000.
The prosecution closed its case on October 17, 2018, after calling seven witnesses.
The seventh prosecution witness, an operative of the EFCC, Suleiman Mohammed, spoke about how his team recovered the $9,772,000 and £74,000 cash in Yabubu’s house in Kaduna, which was later deposited in CBN in Kano.
At the closure of the prosecution’s case, Yakubu made a no-case submission, which Justice Mohammed, in a ruling on May 16, 2019, partially upheld by striking out two of the six counts contained in the charge and ordered Yakubu to enter defence in relation to the remaining four counts.
The judge was of the view that the prosecution failed to prove counts five and six of the charge, which related to allegation of unlawful transportation of the money.
“Even though I am tempted to discharge the defendant on counts one to four, I am, however, constrained to ask the defendant to explain how he came about the monies recovered from his house.
“Fortified with my position, the defendant is hereby ordered to enter his defence in respect of counts one to four,” Justice Mohammed said in the May 16, 2019, ruling.
Dissatisfied, Yakubu challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which, in a ruling on April 24, 2020, upheld Justice Mohammed’s ruling and proceeded to strike out two more counts – one and two – in the charge.
The Court of Appeal, then, ordered Yakubu to enter his defence in respect of the remaining two counts – three and four.
Proceedings later resumed at the Federal High Court, with the defendant commencing his defence as ordered by the Court of Appeal.
But, on March 10 this year, the prosecution applied for leave to amend its charge, arguing among others, that the law allows the prosecution to amend charge at any stage of the proceedings before judgment.
The defence countered, arguing that the Court of Appeal, in its judgment of April 24, 2020, made an order to guide further proceedings in the trial.
It noted that the Court of Appeal ordered that the defendant was only to enter defence in relation to counts three and four in respect of which a prima facie case was established.
The defence urged the court to refuse the prosecution’s application for amendment and allow the defendant to continue with his defence, a prayer Justice Mohammed granted in his ruling, yesterday.
When the judge ended the ruling, yesterday, the defence indicated its intention to proceed with its case, but the court elected to adjourn till June 30 following plea by the prosecution for an adjournment on the grounds that the lead prosecuting lawyer was not immediately available.
Economist Challenges W’Bank’s Prediction On Nigeria’s Inflation Rate
An economist, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, has queried World Bank’s prediction that Nigeria’s inflation rate is expected to rise to fifth highest in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2021.
Ekpo, a professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, questioned the prediction in an interview with The Tide source yesterday in Lagos.
Recall the bank’s Lead Economist for Nigeria, Macro Hernandez while presenting its six-monthly update on development in Nigeria on Tuesday, said Nigeria was lagging the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, with food inflation.
Hernandez included heightened insecurity and stalled reforms as slowing growth and increasing poverty.
The professor said: “First of all, we need to examine the methodology the World Bank used to arrive at the conclusion because we know that inflation has declined slightly.”
Ekpo, also Chairman, Foundation for Economic Research and Training in Lagos, said, however, that if government could solve the insecurity problems limiting economic growth and increase Agricultural production, the prediction might not hold.
According to him, there are countries with double digits inflation and still doing well.
“This means you can have inflation and yet your GDP is growing, so, it’s when you have what we call run-away or hyper inflation that is when you get worried.
“Run-away inflation means that prices are increasing everyday or every month without control,” he said.
On predictions that the inflation would push seven million more Nigerians into poverty due to falling purchasing power, Ekpo gave a suggestion to the federal government to stem it.
He urged the Federal Government to seriously implement the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy Programme and the Economic Sustainability Plan documents.
“I cannot fault them on this one because already, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said about 85 million Nigerians are living in poverty.
“So, World Bank just saying that confirms what our own NBS has already said.
“Now, if the government implements the National Poverty Reduction initiative document as well as the Economic Sustainability plan seriously, then we can begin to reduce the poverty rate.
“Then the economy must grow double digits, that is, 10 per cent and above for us to see reduction in poverty and more jobs creation as well, because poverty is linked to unemployment,” he added.
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