By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief, Yinka Kolawole, Dirisu Yakubu & Naomi Uzor
ABUJA — The nation’s publicdebt stood at N24.947 trillion ($81.274 billion) at the end of March, this year, according to data released by the Debt Management Office, DMO, yesterday.
The debt stock is an indication of a marginal 2.3 per cent increase when compared to the public debt stock as at end December, 2018.
While Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, in a reaction, described the mounting public debt as worrisome, former Vice President and Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said it was capable of drowning the nation, if critical steps are not taken to stop further borrowing.
According to the DMO, the debt stock represented the total debts of the Federal Government, the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
It said while total external debt is N 7.860 trillion ($25. 609 billion); domestic debt stood at N17.086 trillion ($55. 664 billion).
The DMO explained that the increase of N560.009 billion in the total public debt in Q1 2019, was accounted for largely by domestic debt which grew by N458.363 billion.
“Increases were recorded in the domestic debt stock of the FGN, states and the FCT. External debt also increased by N101.646 billion during the same period,” it said.
The DMO stated that in relation to the debt management strategy, the ratio of domestic to external debt stood at 68.49% to 31.51% at the end of the first quarter under review.
It stated further: “The Total Public Debt to GDP Ratio was 19.03% which is within the 25% Debt Limit imposed by the government.”
The agency said that CBN Official Exchange Rate of US$1 to NGN306.95 as at March 31, 2019, was used in converting the domestic debts to US Dollars.
Analysis of state governments’ debt showed that Lagos has the highest debt profile of N542. 231 billion, followed by Rivers and Delta states with N 225. 592 billion and N 223. 442 billion, respectively.
Akwa Ibom’s debt stands at N 199.768; Cross River, N 167.252 billion; Osun, N 147.702 billion; Bayelsa, 133.339 billion; Kano, N 121.305 billion; and Ekiti, N 118.011 billion.
Conversely, Yobe had the least debt stock of N26. 990 billion, followed in that order by Anambra, N33. 490 billion; Sokoto, N 36. 571 billion; Jigawa, N 38.227 billion; and Niger, N 43.414 billion.
Debt stock worrisome — LCCI
Reacting to the data yesterday, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, described the mounting public debt as worrisome.
Director-General, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, who spoke for the chamber, said: “The Debt Management Office, DMO, announced last month that the Federal Government would obtain additional foreign loan to the tune of $2.7bn (N824.82bn).
“This development calls for concern, bearing in mind that in three years, Nigeria’s debt profile rose from $10.32bn in June 30, 2015, to $22.08bn as of June 30, 2018.
“With this additional loan, the country’s foreign debt would increase and would invariably increase the overall debt portfolio of the country which stood at N24.39trn as at December 31, 2018.
“Already, the Federal Government proposed to spend a total of N2.14 trillion on debt servicing in the 2019 fiscal year which is 27% of revenue.
“We are concerned with the increasing amount meant for debt servicing and is becoming worrisome as more funds that could be used for developmental projects are used to service debts.
“We expect the government to cut down its debt and seek other ways of raising funds, by rigorously promoting new investments to increase revenue.”
Debt can drown Nigeria — Atiku
In his reaction, former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said the country’s current debt profile was capable of drowning it unless government stopped further borrowing.
Atiku in a statement issued by his media aide, Paul Ibe, yesterday said the increasing debt profile was becoming more than a source of concern, even as he stressed that “the situation is now at the stage where all genuine lovers of Nigeria ought to raise an alarm.”
He said: “On May 29, 2015, our national debt profile was at a very healthy N12 trillion. However, after four years of profligate spending, and even more irresponsible borrowing, our national debt doubled to N24.3 trillion by December, 2018.
“As alarming as this is, what is more troubling is that between December 2018 and March 2019, the administration of President Buhari added an additional and unprecedented N560 billion debt to our national debt profile.”
The statement also queried the motive behind the borrowing incurred by the Buhari administration.
“If you take those dates into account, they fall on the period of electioneering, when monies were freely distributed by officials of this government in the name of Tradermoni and other election gimmicks that were discontinued after the election.
“We find it inconceivable that Nigeria could have had such unprecedented borrowings in the midst of almost unimaginable sorrowing, which resulted in our nation becoming the world headquarters for extreme poverty and the global capital of out-of-school children, even as we slipped in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International.
“As someone who headed the National Economic Council that paid off Nigeria’s entire debt under the visionary leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar has the moral authority to call those who are turning Nigeria into a beggar nation to halt the drift into unsustainable borrowing.
“We cannot continue to borrow to pay salaries and support luxuries. Already, over 50% of our revenue is going towards debt servicing, not even debt repayments.
“We raise this alarm as responsible citizens and call on other lovers of Nigeria to speak up as we have no other nation to call our home, but Nigeria,” the statement read.