States yet to collect their balance of the Paris Club debts refunds would soon be paid, the Supervising Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said on Thursday.
The Minister who disclosed this in Abuja during her quarterly briefing with journalists on the activities of the Finance Ministry, said about N649.434 billion has been released for that purpose.
“For the final phase of the Paris Club debts refunds, the total sum of N649.434 billion was verified by the Ministry as the outstanding balance to be paid to the State Governments,” the Minister said.
The amount to be paid is lower than about N691.560 billion the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) paid as at March 2019 partly as a result of the exchange rate differential at the point of payment.
She assured that States with outstanding balances of the refund would be paid in due course.
‘Exit from recession’
According to the Minister, the implementation of policies under the Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP) led the economy to exit recession and currently on a path of sustainable, inclusive and diversified growth.
She, however, lamented the country’s “unsatisfactory revenue performance”, particularly in the non-oil sector, saying this has negatively impacted financing of critical sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure.
The Minister said the significant improvement in the country’s external reserves from $28.3 billion in 2015 to $44.69 billion as at May 13, 2019 has helped stabilise the currency exchange rates and economy.
On the role of domestic revenue mobilisation for continued economic success and inclusive growth in the country, Mrs Ahmed said time to act to accelerate all revenue initiatives is now.
She said she has accepted President Muhammadu Buhari’s call to action, by prioritising revenue generation, and strategic revenue growth initiatives and cost-cutting interventions aimed at boosting revenue performance.
On the progress recorded in the economy, the Minister said the country achieved “seven consecutive quarters of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth since exiting recession in the second quarter of 2017.”
“As at Q4 2018, the economy grew by 2.38 per cent in real terms (year-on-year), representing an increase of 0.27 per cent compared to Q4 2017 and, a rise of 0.55 per cent, compared with the growth rate in Q3 2018.
“Overall, GDP grew at an annual rate of 1.93 per cent in 2018 compared with 0.82 per cen in 2017, representing an overall increase of 1.11 per cent year on year,” she said.
In 2018, she said the country’s budgeted revenue was about N7.2 trillion, against the realised figure of N3.96 trillion, signifying a negative variance of 45 per cent.
Despite the shortfall, she said the government “was able to fully pay workers’ salaries and service its debts 100 per cent.”
On capital releases, the Minister said, as at May 14, 2019, “seven months overhead was released for 2018, two months for 2019, and N2.079 trillion capital expenditure.”
“We have adopted a prudent debt management strategy which ensures we invest what we borrow in capital projects. Although our debt by international standards, at 19.09 per cent Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio, is well below the threshold of 56 per centfor countries similar to Nigeria. The government is addressing the issue of reducing the debt service to revenue through a combination of debt substitution strategies.”
On ongoing reforms by her Ministry at the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) and the Joint Tax Board (JTB), she said the country’s taxpayer database has been expanded to 35 million from nine million in the four years of the Buhari-led administration.
She said this figure is expected to grow to 45 million individual and corporate payers when the ongoing integration of different biometric databases is completed.
“Through reforms at the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) and the Joint Tax Board (JTB), we have been able to harmonise the Tax Identity Number (TIN) database to cover Federal, States and Local Governments to establish a unified identity number system for uniquely identifying tax payers,” she said.
Seplat Denies ExxonMobil Deal Cancellation
Seplat Energy, on Thursday, said it had not received any official notification from the Federal Government reversing its proposed acquisition of the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.
The company also said it was seeking clarification from relevant authorities regarding the claims that President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubles as Minister of Petroleum Resources, had withdrawn his ministerial approval for the deal.
“Seplat Energy has become aware of a news report claiming that ministerial approval of the company’s proposed acquisition of the entire share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited has been withdrawn,” the oil firm stated in a statement issued by its Chief Financial Officer, Emeka Onwuka.
It added, “Seplat Energy has received no official notification of such a decision and is seeking clarification from the relevant authorities.”
Buhari had, on Wednesday, reversed his authorisation of the acquisition of the entire share capital of MPNU by Seplat Energy Offshore Limited.
The move puts the Presidency on the side of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited which had earlier declined the $1.3bn transaction.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had announced on Monday that Buhari consented to the acquisition of Exxon Mobil shares by Seplat Energy.
According to the Presidency, Buhari authorised the move in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources as a way to attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country.
This was, however, contested by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, as the Chief Executive, NUPRC, Gbenga Komolafe, said the regulator would not and did not endorse the transaction.
Reacting to the development on Wednesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated that Buhari had reversed the decision and that the misunderstanding was because the “agencies involved in (the) decision had not coordinated well among themselves.”
Responding to claims on the reversal of ministerial approval, Seplat stated on Thursday that it had not received any official notification on the decision.
The oil firm, however, noted that it “will continue to work with all parties to achieve a successful outcome to the proposed acquisition and will provide an update in due course.”
It said the “announcement is made pursuant to Rule 17.10 of the Rulebook of the Nigerian Exchange, 2015 (Issuer’s Rule).”
Wema Bank: Why We Are Delivering Value and Growing Our Numbers – Adebise
The Managing Director/CEO of Wema Bank Plc, Mr. Ademola Adebise, has explained the facts behind the bank’s growing numbers during the half year ended June 30, 2022.
Wema Bank recently released its second quarter unaudited financial result for the period ended June 30, 2022, showing a 50 percent increase in its Gross Earnings from N39.82 billion recorded in 2021 to N59.59 billion H1 2022. The bank also grew its deposit by 43 percent from N968.17 billion reported in FY 2021 to N1.09 trillion in H1 2022.
Similarly, Wema Bank recorded a 43 percent increase in Profit before tax (PBT) from N4.30 billion over the same period last year to N6.13 billion for the period under review.
Speaking at the analyst’s conference and Investors’ call, Mr Adebise said: “Our digital channels remain a priority in meeting customer needs and closing the financial inclusion gap.
‘With a transaction value of N131.5 billion, USSD recorded over 58.6 million in transaction count (+55%), reaffirming our focus to grow channel usage.
“Mobile banking users completed over 42.8 million transactions within the review period, further driving the financial inclusion initiative.
“With over 50% growth in agent acquisition, our agency banking base increased to 140k accounts, at the end of the six months review period (H1 2021: >102k). This helps to further enhance performance across our financial inclusion initiatives. The value of agency funds transfer closed at N7.59bn in H1 2022, a 34% y-o-y growth. The stellar growth in agency transfer volume by 550k% was driven by signing-on of new partners”, he said.
According to the Wema Bank MD, the bank’s agency banking solutions will continue to provide support to customers mostly in the rural areas and hard-to-reach regions of the country.
“So far, we have over 21,000 agents attending to the financial service needs of these customers,” Mr Adebise added.
The bank’s Chief Finance Officer, Mr. Tunde Mabawonku, said the results point to the resilience and growth trajectory of the bank during the review period.
According to him, the bank has achieved efficiency in its balance sheet by managing growing deposits and rising interest rate. He also disclosed the bank has achieved an efficient mix of its deposit portfolio by bringing down the cost of funds.
Mabawonku hinted the bank’s N40 billion rights issue would open and be concluded during the year, a development he said would deliver more value to shareholders.
Nigeria Makes List of Four Top World Bank Debtors
Rising debt has pushed Nigeria up the World Bank’s top 10 International Development Association borrowers’ list.
The World Bank Fiscal Year 2021 audited financial statements, known as the IDA financial statement, showed that Nigeria was rated fifth on the list with $11.7bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2021.
However, the newly released World Bank Fiscal Year 2022 audited financial statements for IDA showed that Nigeria has moved to the fourth position on the list, with $13bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2022.
This shows that Nigeria accumulated about $1.3bn IDA debt within a fiscal year, with the country taking over the fourth top debtor position from Vietnam.
This debt is different from the outstanding loan of $486m from World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The top five countries on the list slightly reduced their IDA debt stock except Nigeria.
India, which is still the first on the list reduced its IDA debt stock from $22bn in the previous fiscal year to $19.7bn, followed by Bangladesh from $18.1bn to $18bn.
It is followed by Pakistan which cut its debt from $16.4bn to $15.8bn, and lastly, Vietnam, which went down the list to fifth position, from $14.1bn to $12.9bn.
Nigeria has the highest IDA debt in Africa, as the top three IDA borrowers (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) are from Asia. The World Bank disclosed recently that Nigeria’s debt, which may be considered sustainable for now, is vulnerable and costly.
The bank said, “Nigeria’s debt remains sustainable, albeit vulnerable and costly, especially due to large and growing financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
However, the Washington-based global financial institution added that the country’s debt was also at risk of becoming unsustainable in the event of macro-fiscal shocks.
The bank further expressed concerns over the nation’s cost of debt servicing, which according to it, disrupted public investments and critical service delivery spending.
Economists have also raised concerns over the rising debt profile of the Federal Government.
The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader of PwC, Mr Taiwo Oyedele, expressed his agreement with the World Bank on the high cost of debt servicing.
He said, “I agree with the World Bank. Although the debt to GDP ratio is not too high, if you think about the debt service cost to revenue ratio, it is already over 70 per cent. That’s when you know it’s costly.
“Nigeria borrows at double-digit, and even when we borrow in dollars, the rates are very high and then you devalue the naira and the cost of servicing the debt in naira goes up because it is dollar-dominated debt.
“Put all of that together, and you can easily say to yourself that even though our debt to GDP ratio is very low, our cost of borrowing is unsustainable because it is very high, and therefore, make it very costly.”
A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, also criticised the increasing borrowing tendency of the government, urging the officials to re-consider other ways of generating revenue for the country.
According to Moghalu, it was also not reasonable to borrow for infrastructural development as the government could expand the public-private partnership options for such development.
In a document by the Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, recently obtained by our correspondent, the DMO stated that high debt levels would often lead to high debt services and affect investments in infrastructure.
According to the DMO DG, “High debt levels lead to heavy debt service which reduces resources available for investment in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.”