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Six numbers that shaped Nigeria’s 2021 debt profile

Lagos, four others owe 34% of states’ $5.34ten domestic debt

The Nigerian government was saddled with a debt stock of N38 trillion as of September 2021, which represents a N5 trillion increase from its previous N33 trillion as of December 2020.

The country’s debt profile has continued to grow astronomically; however, the government and the Debt Management Office (DMO) have been putting in efforts to salvage the country from the looming financial crisis as a result of the rising debt.

Questions surrounding how the country has utilized the debt amassed have been the conversation on the lips of most Nigerians. However, answers to most of these questions seem unanswered.

Here are six numbers that would shed some light on the dynamics that shaped Nigeria’s 2021 debt profile.


Data released by the DMO for the month of September reveal that Nigeria spent N2.49 trillion in the first nine months of 2021.

A breakdown of the expenses reveals that between January and March 2021, N612 billion was spent on servicing domestic debts, while on the external front, N410.3 billion (equivalent to $1bn) was spent on debt servicing. This brought the total to N1.02 trillion in the first three months of 2021.

Between April and June, domestic debt servicing once again gulped N322.7 billion, representing about 52% of what it swallowed in the first three months of the year. On the external side, N122.83 billion ($299m) was spent on external debt servicing within the period under review, totaling N445.53 billion.

The months of July down to September topped the chart as they almost tripled the previous months’ figures. The review period witnessed domestic debt servicing worth N808.49 billion while external debt servicing was N213.95 billion ($520.78m) bringing the total to N1.47 trillion.

The sum total for the entire nine months reveals that Nigeria spent N2.49 trillion (13.21% of 2021 total budget) on both domestic and external debt servicing during the period under review.


The Federal Government in the first five months of 2021 spent 97 percent of the country’s revenue on debt servicing. Data from BudgIT reveal that out of the N3.42 trillion Nigeria generated as revenue, N3.34 trillion (97%) was used in servicing debt.

The translation of the statistics indicates that 97 percent of all Federal Government’s salary payments, overheads, CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) were all financed with loans and CBN support.


Data from the DMO publication reveal that Nigeria’s total domestic debt summed up to N22.4 trillion. Nigeria’s domestic debt comprises FGN bonds, treasury bills, savings bonds, sukuks, promissory notes, and green bonds. The country’s domestic debt is however split into Federal Government and states. Data culled from DMO reveal that FG’s debt accrued to N18.2 trillion while that of states summed up to N4.2 trillion. About 93 percent of the government’s domestic debt emanated from FG bonds and treasury bonds.

$38bn (N15.58trn)

Nigeria, in the first nine months of 2021, accumulated debt worth $38 billion (15.58trn). A breakdown of the numbers indicated $18.3 billion in multilateral funding, bilateral loans worth $4.4 billion, Eurobonds averaging $14.4 billion, diaspora bonds of $300 million, and promissory notes in the amount of $604 million.

The FG in September raised Eurobonds worth $4 billion (oversubscription), hence raising the country’s external debt by 14 percent year-to-date.

Read also: Nigeria’s debt binge lacked ambition in 2021


The CBN in the second quarter of 2021 (Q2 ’21) further devalued the naira from N379.8 to N410, representing a 14.40 percent decrease in the value of the naira. BusinessDay’s analysis of this year’s devaluation of the naira in relation to the country’s external debt position means that the country’s external debt profile would increase by N1.6 trillion.

On average, Nigeria has consistently devalued its currency on a yearly basis since the 2015/2016 recession. In 2016, it was devalued to N253 from N192 in 2015. It then dropped to N305.8 in 2017, N306.1 in 2018, N306.9 in 2019, then it skyrocketed by 16.91 percent in 2020 to N379.8.

These devaluations have subsequently contributed to an increase in our external debt profile as Nigeria pays its external debt in dollars and these debts span through a 7-10-year repayment timeline. Hence, for every annual devaluation to the naira, it subsequently translates to additional payments on the external debt profile.

Paul Alaje, senior economist with SPM Professionals at a forum last year, stated that devaluation in 2019 took the naira from N306.9 to N379.8. A detailed analysis of these figures and DMO’s publications would reveal that Nigeria has added another N1 trillion to its debt profile for borrowing nothing.


As of late June, data from DMO reveal that Nigeria’s debt to China, France, Japan, India, and Germany rose from $3.85 billion in 2019 to $4.26 billion in 2021. Nigeria’s indebtedness to these countries fell slightly by $2 million as of the end of 2020. This accounted for 12.17 percent of 2020’s total external debt.

As of the end of Q1 ’21, China and India received $102.2 million and $4.13 million, respectively, representing bilateral payments summing a total of $106.33 million.

The total debt owed to the five countries however increased further to a total of $4.25 billion with China having $3.48 billion, Japan having $74.77 million, France with $482.15 million, India with $34.59 million, and Germany with $174.39 million.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in their October 2021 Fiscal Monitor Report, projected that Nigeria’s gross government debt to GDP ratio would rise from the current 35.7 percent in 2021 to 42 percent by 2026.

The IMF in their publication gave a breakdown of this increment. It stated that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio would increase from 35.7 percent in 2021 to 36.9 percent in 2022, 37.7 percent in 2023, 39.1 percent in 2024, 40.6 percent in 2025, and 42 percent by 2026.

The report further indicated that government revenue-to-GDP would decrease from 7.2 percent in 2021 to 6.5 percent in 2026.

Also, the expenditure-to-GDP ratio would subsequently decrease from 13.3 percent in 2021 to 12.6 percent in 2026.