Facts have emerged on the exclusion of the South East zone from the Federal Government’s $30 billion foreign loan to provide infrastructure in various parts of the country.
In the words of the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, the International Economic Relation Department (IECD) in the Ministry of Finance excluded the South East from benefitting from the loan.
Nwankwo disclosed this on Thursday when he fielded questions from the Senator Shehu Sani-led Committee on Foreign and Local Debt. He said that Nigeria’s external and domestic debt stock had risen to N17.36 trillion.
The DG said that despite the current economic recession in the country, Nigeria has not reached the level of seeking for debt forgiveness from other countries of the world.
According to him, “Nigeria doesn’t need debt forgiveness from other countries.”
A breakdown of the debt burden put external debt ($11.41 billion) or N3.48 trillion and domestic debt ($45.98 billion) or N13.88 trillion.
Nwankwo noted that the disaggregated external debt stock on the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as at June 2016 was $3.65 billion while that of domestic debt stock of states and the FCT as at September was $2.822.89 billion.
Senator Sani had at the commencement of the Budget Defence, raised the alarm at the enthusiasm with which the Executive rushed to borrow money to run the economy without recourse to high interest rates and its burden on generations yet unborn.
He said: “There is a genuine fear of our debt profile which is on the increase with a pressure on the interest rate on our budget which the National Assembly is concerned about.
“The committee will not accept any borrowing just for the sake of borrowing, but to finance critical sectors and infrastructure that will impact positively on the economy thereby reducing the suffering of teeming Nigerians who are below poverty level.”
A member of the committee, Senator Obinna Ogba, cautioned that any money borrowed by the Federal Government should be spread to the geopolitical zones, noting that he was aware that the South East zone is always being shortchanged and warned that “this time around, we will not accept it.”
Senator Obinna recalled that when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the $30 billion loan, he enumerated the key areas that the loan would provide infrastructure and asked the DG: “Can you tell me why the South East was omitted in that document?
Nwankwo replied: “I can’t tell you Sir, that question will be answered by the government department responsible for compiling the list. I am sure they will have adequate explanation to give you the answer.
Senator Ogba replied: No! No! Those government officials that you mention did not come here to provide the committee with what the money is to be used for and so you must tell us.
Nwankwo said: “It is the International Economic Relations Department (IERD) of the Federal Ministry of Finance that is responsible for that document. So, there is no need for me to answer for them.”