Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said there is no cause for alarm over the country’s $84 billion debt profile.
Mohammed made this known during a press conference on Monday, in which he highlighted the administration’s major achievements in the year 2019.
The nation is currently embroiled in a controversy over plan by the Buhari government to send a $29.6 billion loan request to the National Assembly.
In his letter of request, President Buhari said the loan is “critical to the delivery of the government’s policies and programmes”.
Lai Mohammed reacted to the raging issue at the press conference:
“There have been concerns in certain circles about the country’s growing debt, both domestic and external. In the process, there have been some misrepresentations and scare mongering. We therefore believe it is important to put things in the right perspective, so our citizens will be well informed.
“The public debt stock is actually a cumulative figure of borrowings by successive governments over many years. It is therefore not appropriate to attribute the public debt stock to one administration.
“Nigeria’s total public debt stock in 2015 was $63.80 billion, comprising $10.31 billion of external debt and $53.49 billion domestic debt. By June 2019, the total debt stock was $83.883 billion, made up of $27.163 billion of external debt and $56.720 billion domestic debt. It is therefore not correct to say that Nigeria’s external debt alone is $81.274 billion.
“There is yet no cause for alarm. This is because Nigeria has a debt ceiling of 25% in the total public debt stock to Gross Domestic Product (Debt/GDP), which it has operated within. The ratio for Dec. 31 2018 and June 30 2019 were 19.09% and 18.99% respectively.
“The debt service to revenue ratio has however been higher than desirable, hence the push by the government to diversify the economy and increase oil and non-oil revenues significantly. The government is also widening the tax base to capture more tax-paying citizens.”
The minister also denied claims that he is the sponsor of the controversial Hate Speech bill. Sen. Francis Fadahunsi in a recent media chat, alleged that Mohammed is behind the bill aimed at crippling quality and vibrant journalism.
“You must have read the fake news attributed to Sen. Fadahunsi that I am behind the hate speech bill at the National Assembly, and that the senator who is sponsoring the bill is fronting for me. This is a typical example of the fake news we are trying to fight.
I am not the sponsor of the hate speech bill at the National Assembly. However, I remain committed to sanitising the social media. I have said that all stakeholders will be involved in determining the modalities for regulating the social media,” he said.