Friday Olokor, Abuja
THE Federal Government on Wednesday faulted the debt profile of the country painted by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, describing it as criticism anchored on a false premise and innuendos.
The government said that the figure of Nigeria’s debt to revenue ratio of 99 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, quoted by Atiku “is not in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, where he claimed he got it from.”
A statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, indicated that while the Federal Government welcomes constructive criticism, such must be based on verifiable facts rather than conjectures and innuendos.
He said the debt service provisions in the annual budgets included principal repayments, interest payments.
‘’Therefore, the statement that debt servicing does not equate to debt repayment is not only wrong, but ill-informed,” he emphasised.
Mohammed said, “There is no doubt that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar loves our country and wishes it well, otherwise he would not have sustained his serial quest for the country’s highest position.
“One can only hope that his resort to the use of such words as ‘precipice’, ‘foreclosure’ and ‘economic ruin’ does not reflect anything but best wishes for the country at this time.
“We are also not able to ascertain the source of the first quarter figures of N943.12 billion for debt servicing and N950.56 billion for retained revenue, which he also quoted.”
The minister, who spoke on Atiku’s claim that revenue needed to go up, said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had introduced several measures to shore up revenues.
He stated that contrary to the statement credited to Alhaji Abubakar that Nigeria had experienced alarming and unprecedented increase in the ratios of debt to Gross Domestic Product and debt service to revenue, Nigeria’s debt ratio to GDP is one of the lowest in the world at 19.00 per cent as at December 31, 2019.
“One of the reasons why debt service to revenue is high is because revenue generation in Nigeria has been low, with over-dependence on the oil sector. This is corroborated by the fact that the ratio of Nigeria’s tax revenue to GDP is one of the lowest in the world at about 6 per cent,” he said.
Mohammed added that unlike what obtained in the past, when the nation borrowed to service the crass indulgence of a few fat cats, the loans being obtained by the current regime were primarily used to finance infrastructure projects, which include roads, railways, bridges and power.
“We have said that in the face of massive infrastructural decay, no responsible government will sit by and do nothing. This administration’s borrowing, therefore, is aimed mostly at revamping our infrastructure.