Why Udoma slipped on Nigeria’s total debt status – Aide

Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma addressing the Management Staff  during assumption of Office at Budget And National Planning
Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma addressing the Management Staff during assumption of Office at Budget And National Planning

The office of the Minister of Budget and National Planning on Tuesday explained why the minister, Udoma Udoma, was hesitant in providing the status on the country’s total debt status on demand on Monday.

At the opening session of the policy dialogue on the Nigerian economy at the ongoing Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#22) in Abuja, Mr. Udoma had requested for time to come up with the exact figure of the country’s debt status when CNN’s Zain Asher Ejiofor, anchor of the programme, asked him for the information.

Mr. Udoma’s has since been widely reported as demonstrating incompetence.

But, a statement from the minister’s office on Tuesday in Abuja dismissed such insinuations as incorrect.

“It has become necessary to correct a misconception carried in the media regarding the Minister’s response to the country’s debt status at the ongoing Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja,” the minister’s spokesperson, Akpandem James, said.

“The Minister, who was one of the panelists on the ‘Policy dialogue on the Nigerian Economy’ discussion, which focused at the time of the question on the domestic economy, had given a response in line with the thread of discussion in the belief that the reference to debts was in regard to contractor liabilities.

“The discussion centred on ease of doing business in Nigeria, the relationship between private sector organizations and government and plans by government to help grow local businesses in line with the theme of the Summit, which is ‘Made-in-Nigeria’.

Mr. James said in answering a follow-up question on the issue, which followed the thread of the discussion on recent capital releases for infrastructure project, “the Minister naturally assumed that she (the anchor of the programme) was referring to contractors’ liabilities”.

Consequently, the minister requested for time to cross-check with the relevant authorities in the issue before coming with the exact figures, given the multi-sectoral nature of the subject.

“The Minister did not think the question related to the overall debt position of the country, which includes external borrowings and other liabilities.

“So the issue of the Minister not answering a question on the overall debt stock of the country does not arise,” the spokesperson said.

“For the information of the public, the total national debt stock (both the Federal Government and the States) stood at N16.3 trillion as at June 30, this year. This is made of foreign liabilities of N3.2 trillion and domestic liabilities of N13.1 trillion,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is to publish a consolidated and comprehensive plan on all sectoral plans before the end of this year.

The plans already adopted by government would make it easier for the general public to easily access government’s overall economic agenda on-demand.

“The document would consolidate and harmonize all the sectoral plans in a single document and set out in broad detail an integrated roadmap for the growth and sustainability of the country’s economy,” the government said in Tuesday.

A Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) was issued early this year setting out the strategies the government intended to adopt to stimulate the economy, create job for the teeming youths and extend support to the very poor and vulnerable segments of the society while at the same time laying the foundations for sustainable growth.

The SIP document laid out the four key policy priorities and the six strategic intervention areas the government intended to focus on to achieve these objectives.

The six strategic intervention areas encompass 34 measurable and verifiable priority actions intended to be implemented in the 2016 Budget.

The document highlighted the headline activities to be undertaken by the Federal Government this year in one document with a view to enabling the generality of the people as well as investors and development partners to have access to critical information with ease.

It would equally help frame and inform public discourse and facilitate business planning.

The new comprehensive document, government explained, would be released later in the year as one of the commitments made in the SIP.