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FG defends debt burden, allays Nigerians fear

By Idowu Abdullahi

The Federal Government has defended the country’s debt burden and external borrowings, saying contrary to insinuations from different quarters, Nigeria’s foreign debt was still within sustainable limit that can be offset without glitches.

It added that though it was within Nigerians and experts right to raise concerns over the country’s rising debt stock even as the government plans to fund the 2021 budget deficit with N4.28tn new borrowing, plans are being concluded on how the debt would be serviced and improve on the nation’s external reserve.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was not oblivious of the Nigerians fear and that plans are being perfected to ensure the debt burden was effectively lessen through workable strategies.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, the minister said that Nigeria’s debt which stoo currently at about 23% to GDP was at a very sustainable level.

“On the issue of the borrowing, the Nigerian debt is still within sustainable limit. What we need to do as I have said several times is to improve our revenue to enhance our capacity to service not only our debt but to service the needs of running the government on day to day basis.

“So our debt currently at about 23% to GDP is at a very sustainable level. If you look at all the reports that you see from multilateral institutions,” Ahmed said.

Meanwhile, the minister faulted claims by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, that the apex government printed an additional N60 billion that was shared at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), adding that the statement credited to the governor was false.

Ahmed said that contrary to the claim, what was distributed at the monthly FAAC meetings were generated revenue from government institutions available to the public at the ministry’s website.

“The issue that was raised by the Edo State Governor for me is very, very sad because it is not a fact.What we distribute at FAAC is revenue that is generated and in fact distribution revenue is public information.

“We publish revenue generated by FIRS, the customs and the NNPC and we distribute at FAAC. So, it is not true to say we printed money to distribute at FAAC, it is not true,” she added.

It would be recalled that Obaseki was quoted as saying during during the State Transition Committee Stakeholders Engagement last week that the country was in huge financial trouble.

Obaseki was also quoted to have said that the apex government printed about N50-N60 billion to share in March Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).

“When we got FAAC for March, the federal government printed additional N50-N60 billion to top-up for us to share. This April, we will go to Abuja and share. By the end of this year, our total borrowings are going to be within N15-N16 trillion,” he was quoted to have said.

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