Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, yesterday told the Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debts that the nation’s total debt had risen to N17.36 trillion.
This is coming at a time he said the nation’s economic woes had not got to the point of seeking debt forgiveness.
Nwankwo told the lawmakers that Nigeria’s total debt profile, which was N2.03 trillion ($10.32billion) as at the end of June 2015, a month after the President Muhammadu Buhari administration assumed office, had risen to N17.36trillion or $57.39 billion as at December 31, 2016.
According to the DMO DG, the total debt profile of the country, comprising local and foreign debts, has been on the increase since July 2015, due to prevailing economic challenges. He said while the Federal Government’s domestic debt stock, as at December 31, 2015, was N8.84 trillion, it rose to N11.06 trillion in December 2016.
The DG explained that the total debt profile of $57.39 billion was made up of external debt stock of $11.41 billion (N3.48trillion) and domestic debt stock of $45.98billion( N13.88trillion), out of which the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory accounted for about 32.45 per cent and the Federal Government, accounting for the remaining 67.55 per cent.
Chairman of the Senate committee, Shehu Sani, in his comments, said it was unfortunate that at a time Nigerians are suffocating in austere economic conditions, officials of the Federal Government are showering praises on the performance of the economy.
Sani said: “In 2006, people found it easier to feed their families, pay fees of their children and pay rents. Now things are very much in bad shape. What you are saying is not typical of somebody who lives with the people but somebody speaking from an expert point of view, to say we are not in a bad position to ask for forgiveness. These are two things, if you are talking from the point of how our people live nowadays, you will not be able to say such things.
“But you are speaking naturally, as an expert; but the question being pushed to you is this: When we went round the world seeking for debt forgiveness, were we in a situation that is worst than this then? I think this is something that will help us to understand how our debt kept rising to almost 50 something billion dollars. Our most important concern has to do with the very fact that most of these states simply collect money; they have piled up so many debts for their children and grandchildren.
“Many of them couldn’t pay salaries and we have seen how some new sets of cash disbursement were done to them from excess crude account to ecological funds.”