Nigeria’s high-debt risk exposure

Nigeria’s high-debt risk exposure

The World Bank’s damning report has listed Nigeria among top 10 countries in the world with high-debt risk exposure. This is contained in the bank’s International Development Association (IDA), which was among its audited Financial Year, 2021. Undoubtedly, the financial report has far-reaching implications for Nigeria. It is a timely warning to the government to be extremely cautious about borrowing. The immediate implication of the World Bank’s report is that Nigeria’s credit is at great risk due to the fear that it might not meet its contractual obligations.     

Nigeria is rated fifth on the list with $11.7billion, while India is top on the log with $22billion. Six African countries are on the list, with a combined debt exposure of $51.4 billion. As at June 30, 2021, the 10 countries’ total debt exposures accounted for 66 per cent of IDA exposure. Bangladesh occupies second position in the inglorious list with $18.1billion, followed by Pakistan with $16.4billion IDA debt stock and Vietnam with $14.1billion. Other countries on the list in order of appearance included: Ethiopia with $11.2billion, Kenya, $10.2billion IDA debt stock; Tanzania, $8.3billion; Ghana, $5.6 billion and Uganda with $4.4billion IDA debt stock.

In all, Nigeria was elaborately mentioned in the World Bank IDA debt risk exposure report. According to the report, Nigeria’s undisbursed balance with the global financial institution was about $8.656billion as at June 30, 2021. The financial statement for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), a subsidiary of the World Bank, showed Nigeria having a total of $589 million undisbursed balance, comprising $500million loans approved but not yet signed and $80million signed loan commitment. Besides, the financial statement for IDA revealed that Nigeria has a total undisbursed balance of $8.07 billion, consisting of $1.462 ban loans approved but not yet signed and $6.61billion signed loan commitment.                      

Furthermore, the financial statement for IBRD says that though certain amount of loans had been agreed, the loans are not yet effective and disbursements will not start until Nigerian government guarantees to take certain actions and furnish the bank with “documents.” It did not disclose the nature of the documents required. Statistics from the World Bank, however, show that a total of $1billion loans were agreed between Nigeria and the World Bank’s IBRD, of which Nigeria’s outstanding loan is $411 million. This is in addition to IDA loans of $19.54 billion agreed with the country. There means that Nigeria is a high-debt risk nation. The present administration inherited a debt portfolio of N18.89trillion in 2015, but has almost doubled it in six years. According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s indebtedness to the World Bank is $11.51 ban, consisting of $11.10billion IDA loans and $410.23 million IBRD loans as at March 31, 2021. Nigeria has taken loans worth over $3.7billion from China.                                                                    

Nigeria’s borrowing binge is worrisome and must be checked before plunging the country into another avoidable debt trap. Not long ago, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation(WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and President of  African Development Bank(AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, warned against government’s rising debt exposure. The timely warning came on the heels of the nation’s increasing debt profile, which experts say could reach N40trillion by end of 2022 if not checked. The current national debt of N33.8 trillion implies that every Nigerian owes about N157, 906 in terms of debt per capita.                        

Besides, the sharp decline in government’s revenue is a major concern. Worse still, the Federal Government has reportedly spent over 83 per cent of its revenue for last year. The total revenue earned in 2020 was much less than projected, while it spent N3.26 trillion on debt servicing. Also, Nigeria recorded 99 per cent debt-service-to-revenue ratio in the first quarter of 2020, having recorded retained revenue of N950.56billion. The country also incurred N943.12billion in debt service. Even the projected debt ratio of 46.9 per cent for 2021 is far from being met. This can only happen if oil price in the international market hit over $80 per barrel.    

According to the 2021 budget, N7.95trillion revenue was projected, especially from oil earnings. This indicates a budget deficit of N5.6trillion. The projected revenue is expected to be funded from domestic and external borrowings, as well as from privatisation proceeds put at N205billion. Only recently, the Senate approved another external loan for the government. Currently, domestic debt constitutes about N20.8trillion of the public debt, while external debt stands at N12.5trillion. Overall, government should be mindful of the consequences of the high-debt risk exposure on the development and welfare of Nigerians. Moreover, government should develop an efficient credit risk management strategy to check our transaction and portfolio risks. Failure to do this will worsen the nation’s debt risk exposure.

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