Published On: Tue, Dec 3rd, 2019

No to escalating Nigeria’s debt profile

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By Abba Dukawa

In January 1984 Major General Buhari justified the coup by saying that the civilian government overthrew was hopelessly corrupt.
As a result of our inability to cultivate financial discipline and prudent management of the economy, we have come to depend largely on internal and external borrowing to execute government projects with attendant domestic pressure and soaring external debts, thus aggravating the propensity of the outgoing civilian administration to mismanage our financial resources. Nigeria was already condemned perpetually with the twin problem of heavy budget deficits and weak balance of payments position, with the prospect of building a virile and viable economy.
However, in the case of Nigeria, its impact was aggravated by mismanagement. We believe the appropriate government agencies have good advice but the leadership disregarded their advice.
The situation could have been avoided if the legislators were alive to their constitutional responsibilities; Instead, the legislators were preoccupied with determining their salary scales, fringe benefit and unnecessary foreign travels, et al, which took no account of the state of the economy and the welfare of the people they represented.
This was what our perceive Messiah said in 1984 accused both legislators and executive members of not being financial discipline and prudent management of the economy.
Nigeria debt has almost doubled since Buhari took over two months before Buhari took office on 29 May – the country owed a total of N12 trillion. At the end of June 2015, country debt had risen slightly to N12.1 trillion. By the end of June 2018, total public debt had almost doubled to N22.4 trillion. Going by this frightening figures released by the Debt Management Office, the total debt stock stood at some humongous N24.047tn as of March 31, 2019. As its now the debt risen to N25 trillion (US$80 billion).
A gaskiya the recent request by President Buhari asked National Assembly to approve $30 billion of foreign borrowings after a similar request three years ago was rejected is scaring and Nigerians on the street not wants it. Because poor Nigerians seeing raised over Nigeria’s ever escalating debt profile is scary economic situation throws up some salient questions, all begging for answers. Nigeria is using 50% of its revenue to service its debts! this is unsustainable. But this is just part of an economic malaise that has consigned millions of Nigerians to “multidimensional poverty” even as a few favoured ones continue to enjoy the nation’s wealth.
Surely Nigeria do not need comprehensive mathematics to understand that the country’s economic growth is undermined by the huge debt stock as well as other obvious factors including sheer profligacy in running government. Nigeria’s debilitating debt profile” in January 2015. But, the situation has only worsened over the years. Recall that in June 2017, experts, Prof. Pat Utomi and Mr. Bismarck Rewane, had expressed a similar worry over the increasing debt burden at both the state and federal levels.
Its seem like most of the financial policies of the administration is not fevour masses that spends hours under the sun to vote the administration. It may be recalled that Nigeria’s Senate on 21 November 2019 passed the Finance Bill, 2019 after the third reading just as the House of Representative is expected to kowtow. The bill, as presented to the National Assembly in October 2019, includes vast changes to the Companies Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, Petroleum Profits Tax Act (PPTA), Personal Income Tax Act, Capital Gains Tax Act (CGTA), Customs and Excise Tariff Etc. (Consolidation) Act and Stamp Duties Act. What really surprising Nigerians is whether our lawmakers understanding the gravity of their actions in causing more hardship because contemplating an increase in VAT rate now is bad timing and inconsistent with current economic reality… VAT increase will lead to higher inflation, interest rate hike, more unemployment and generally make people poorer.
One’s current concern, however, is who will pay these huge debts? Will the burden being left by the reckless and frivolous political class not be too weighty for the lean shoulders of our jobless children? Will they not be turned to slaves and beggars in their own country by the creditor nations, just because they want to pay off the debts left by the locusts that have ravaged our common patrimony? But that is not all.
One is surprised too about the speed with which governors go for questionable bonds at the end of their tenures. What is the guarantee that the incoming administrations and the subsequent ones would have the capacity to repay without harming the security and welfare of the citizens which are their primary reasons of being in government? The earlier we started having credible answers to these burning questions, the better for us all.

Dukawa can be reach at abbahydukawa@gmail.com

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