Press zooms in on report that Nigeria’s debt burden will hit N77tn, others

The report that Nigeria's public debt burden may hit N77tn if the National Assembly approves the request by the President…

The report that Nigeria’s public debt burden may hit N77tn if the National Assembly approves the request by the President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the Ways and Means Advances dominates the headlines of Nigerian newspapers on Thursday.The Punch reports that Nigeria’s public debt burden may hit N77tn if the National Assembly approves the request by the President Muhammadu Buhari, to restructure the Ways and Means Advances.

The Ways and Means Advances is a loan facility through which the Central Bank of Nigeria finances the shortfalls in the government’s budget.

This is as the Federal Government spent N5.24tn servicing debts in 2022.

The Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha disclosed this on Wednesday during the public presentation of the 2023 budget organized by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed.

She, however, noted that the debt would be N70tn without N5tn new borrowing and N2tn promissory notes.

Oniha said, “The DMO released the figure for the country’s debt stock as at September, you don’t expect it to be significantly different from December. Secondly, there are a lot of discussions on the Ways and Means. In addition to the significant costs saving in loans service we would get by securitizing it.

“There is an element of transparency in the sense that it is now reflected in the public debt stock. Once it is passed by the National Assembly, it means we will be seeing that figure included in the public debt. You will see a significant increase in public debt to N77tn.”

She said while the debt is growing because there is new borrowing, revenue is receiving significant importance.

“Like DMO always says, you can’t talk about debt without talking about revenue. We need the two to work together,” she added.

The newspaper says that electricity distribution companies have quietly increased the tariff payable by power consumers across the country.

Although most of the Discos did not make this public, electricity users have kicked against the move, describing it as “a perfect robbery” amidst the harsh economic realities in Nigeria currently.

Reacting to the price hike, a resident of a Lagos highbrow estate, Mr. Oye Sola, lamented the increase.

He said, “Electricity tariff is now N72.2 per unit. Another price hike from N66; I suspect they are going to N100. A higher price for poorer services.

Another customer of Ikeja Disco identified as Ola Busari said, “They are just milking us. This is a perfect robbery. Discos need to be checked.

Another Lagos resident named Olojede said: “They increased prices without informing us. There was no official communication to us as our estate representatives.”

However, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, in its Multi-Year Tariff Order, provides a 15-year tariff path for the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry with limited minor reviews each year.

It states that reviews are in the light of changes in a limited number of parameters such as inflation, interest rates, exchange rates and generation capacity, and major reviews every five years when all of the inputs were reviewed with the stakeholders.

NERC, however, did not announce the latest hike in tariff, which a power distribution company attributed to the regulator on Wednesday.

The Guardian reports that foreign airlines, yesterday, kicked against gradual return of travel protocols following the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in some parts of the world, especially China.

The airlines, under the aegis of International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the reintroduction of testing and other measures on travellers had proven to be both ineffective and unscientific a barrier against the devastating virus.

Barely three weeks after Federal Government abolished facemask for air travellers in Nigeria and also cancelled COVID-19 PCR test irrespective of vaccination status, governments globally have started reinstating or considering restrictions on travellers from China, as Coronavirus cases in the country surge following its relaxation of “zero-COVID” rules.

Countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan, India, Canada, Italy, among others, have cited a lack of information from China on variants and are concerned about its wave of infections.

The World Health Organisation has called the precautionary measures “understandable” in light of the lack of information and urged Beijing to share more data on genetic sequencing, as well as figures on hospitalisations, deaths and vaccinations.

Beginning from today, January 5, the United States will impose mandatory COVID-19 tests on travellers from China. All air passengers aged two and older will require a negative result from a test no more than two days before departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also said U.S. citizens should also reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau. The UK will also require a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test from passengers from China as of January 5, the Department of Health said on Friday.

Besides China criticising the measures as “discriminatory”, IATA has also called for a rethink.

IATA Director-General, Willie Walsh, said despite the virus “already circulating widely within borders”, it is “extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years.”

Walsh reiterated that research undertaken around the arrival of the Omicron variant concluded that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections.

“At most, restrictions delayed that peak by a few days. If a new variant emerges in any part of the world, the same situation would be expected. That’s why governments should listen to the advice of experts, including the WHO, that advises against travel restrictions.

The newspaper says that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, said it secured unprecedented 3,785 convictions across all its commands in 2022.

The figure, which emerged from a review of the anti-graft agency’s performance in the outgone year, showed a 70.5 per cent improvement over the 2220 convictions of 2021.

EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, in a statement, said the development represents a 98.93 per cent success rate in prosecution given that the Commission lost only 41 cases, representing 1.07 per cent within the period.

He said: “As it was in 2021, the Lagos command of the agency recorded the most convictions – 765, closely followed by the Ibadan command with 573 convictions and Port Harcourt zonal command’s 567, while the headquarters posted 314.

“The convictions secured by the Commission in 2022 are the highest by the EFCC since inception and sustain an upward trajectory, which began shortly after the emergence of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

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