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Nigeria will borrow N6tn in 2021 – Finance minister

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said Nigeria’s total public debt will hit N38tn by December 2021.

Ahmed said this on Tuesday in her presentation to the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts.

The minister said, “The total public debt stock comprising the external and home debts of the federal and state governments and the Federal Capital Territory stood at N31.01tn ($85.90bn) as of June 30, 2020.

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

This means that the country will borrow N6.17tn in 2021.

She attributed numerous abandoned road projects across the country to poor funds releases occasioned by dwindling revenue.

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Ahmed explained that the current Sukuk fund was N162bn for 45 roads cut 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.

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“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, N5bn, and you will see a provision for N100m, N200m or N300m.

“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.

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

She 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 were 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.”

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 would be paid.

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