Senate Slams DMO For Rejecting Debt Relief Option, As Nigeria Debt Reaches N17.3Trillion

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By Nuel Suji – The Debt Management Office (DMO) on Thursday disclosed that Nigeria’s total debt profile office has risen to N17.36trillion or $57.39billion as at December 31, 2016, even as the Senate slammed the Agency for turning down suggestions for debt relief.

The debt profile stood at N2.03trillion ($10.32billion) as at the end of June 2015 but climbed to 500% increase in 2016.

The Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO) Abraham Nwankwo made the disclosure during the budget defence session with the Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debts.

The Director General said the total debt profile of the country, comprising of both local and foreign debts has been on the increase since July 2015 due to prevailing economic challenges.

He said while the federal government domestic debt stock as at December 31, 2015 was N8.84trillion, it rose to N11.06trillion as at December 2016.

Nwankwo also explained that the total debt profile of $57.39billion is made up of external debt stock of $11.41billion (N3.48trillion and domestic debt stock of $45.98billion ( N13.88trillion)

According to him, the debt owed by the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory accounted for about 32.45% and the federal government accounting for the remaining 67.55%.

However, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna Central) had asked the DMO DG why the federal government has not sought for debt relief from the creditors as once did.

Nwankwo in response expressed confidence that the Nigeria economy was still strong despite the debt overhang- a response that angered members of the Committee

“In our humble view, Nigeria is not in a position to beg for debt forgiveness. Nigeria is still a very strong economy. We have some challenges; some of them if I can try and some of them relatively strong. But, Nigeria has not reached a stage that it needs to beg for debt forgiveness. We are not in that position, sir”, Nwankwo retorted.

Angered by the DMO DG’s response, Senator Shehu Sani  accused him of being careless and insensitive to the plights of ordinary Nigerians with his stance against seeking for debt relief.

“It is shocking that in 2006, people found it easier to feed their families and pay the fees of their children and rents. Now, things are in a very bad shape. But you’re speaking not typical of somebody who lives with the people but like somebody who is speaking from an ‘expert’ point of view.

“You said we are not in a position to ask for debt forgiveness. If you are talking from the point of how our people live nowadays, you would not be able to say such things. But you are speaking naturally as an expert. The question we are putting to you is that, when we went round the world seeking for debt forgiveness, were we in a situation that was worse than this?”

However, Nwankwo insisted that the questions asked “are bigger than public debt management.” He explained that he had made a recommendation on how the economy could be turned around by raising the infrastructure deficit.

“Beyond that, I don’t think I have the mandate and I don’t want to presume that I have the capability to come here and pontificate on how all the problems of Nigeria can be resolved because that is not my mandate. And I will be very presumptuous to be saying that”

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