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Nigeria’s debt to hit N38.68trn in 2021 – Finance minister

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said Nigeria’s total public debt is expected to hit N38.68 trillion by December 2021.

The minister gave the indication in her presentation on status of 2019 and 2020 budgets and 2021 appropriation bill to the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts.

Ahmed said, “The total public debt stock comprising the External and Homes debts of the Federal and state governments and the Federal Capital Territory stood at N31.01 trillion (USD85.90 billion) as of June 30, 2020.

“It is projected, based on existing approval, to rise to N32.51 trillion by December 31, 2020 and N38.68 trillion by December 31,2021.”

The minister explained that the numerous abandoned road projects across the country were due to lack of fund arising from dwindled revenue.

She explained that the current Sukuk fund is N162bn for 45 roads cutting across the six geopolitical zones.

She said, “I am one person that feels that we should just take one major road in one geopolitical zone and finish it.

“We were not able to do that because of the processes in which appropriation is made both at the executive as well as the legislative arms of government.

“But truly, if we are able to just take one or two projects at a time and complete it before going to the next one, it will be better.

” What the contractor does is the bit that has been cut out for him to do in that particular area.

“Once the fund is released and it is finished, we stop again. That’s the consequence of these numerous projects that we put in the budget.

“It is not related to Sukuk-funded projects alone, it cuts across all the projects.

“You will see a road that costs, may be, N5 billion, and you will see a provision for N100 million, N200 million or 300 million.

“Of course the project will never finish. After two years, the contractor comes back and asks for variation, and the amount keeps growing.

” I wish that we get to a point when we sit down as government and agree that let us select a few projects, finish them in 2020, and then in 2021, we select the next.

“So that on a geopolitical basis, those selections are done as a collective process.”

Ahmed said work on the legacy projects, Lagos-Ibadan highway, 2nd Niger Bridge, East-West road, and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road, were ongoing without stop because funds were available and that they are few.

She said, “The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority was assigned four major road projects to do. These projects are Lagos-Ibadan highway, 2nd Niger Bridge,
East-West road, and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road.

“After the President gave approval, the appropriation for that year, 2019 was remitted to the NSIA and then added its own fund.

“The projects are on course because there is funding on the ground and because they are few, they are concentrating on them and work is ongoing.

“I wish we get to a point when we narrow down project implementation to few a projects at a time.”

Speaking on the delay in releasing Sukuk funds to contractors for executed projects, the minister said, though the fund was protected, there were procedures put in place to verify claims that will be paid.

She said, “There is an audit process, the first batch has been released, the second batch is being released as we speak.

“There are some checks that we have to put in place to make sure that the claim that is being made is actually valid.

“There are parties that have been engaged to do a second level of verification in addition to the claims the ministry of works sends as invoices due for payment.

“The batch which is about N58 billion has been released. There is another N35bn that is under processing.”

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