Debt loads in low-income countries surged 12 percent to a record $860 billion in 2020 amid the pandemic, prompting World Bank President David Malpass on Monday to call for a “comprehensive plan” to deal with the issue.
“Sustainable debt levels are vital for economic recovery and poverty reduction,” he said.
Efforts to combat Covid-19 exacerbated already-rising debt levels, and addressing the problem will require relief from lenders, Malpass said.
The situation is urgent since the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) launched by G20 nations early last year, allowing countries to defer debt payments while dealing with the pandemic, expires at the end of the year.
“We need a comprehensive approach to the debt problem, including debt reduction, swifter restructuring and improved transparency,” Malpass said.
World Bank data released Monday showed the deterioration in debt indicators was widespread and impacted countries in all regions, across all low- and middle-income countries.
“Many developing countries entered 2020 in a vulnerable position, with public external debt already at elevated levels,” the report said, and then governments provided unprecedented resources to try to contain the virus and the economic fallout.
The World Bank and IMF likewise ramped up support, especially for the most vulnerable countries.
In 2020, net inflows from multilateral creditors to low- and middle-income countries rose to $117 billion, “the highest level in a decade,” the report said.
“The risk now is that too many countries will emerge from the Covid-19 crisis with a large debt overhang that could take years to manage,” Malpass said in the report.
Seventy-seven oil companies owe the Federal Government N2.6 trillion debt, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said.
The debt arises from the failure to remit petroleum profit tax, company income tax, value-added tax, royalty, and concession on rentals.
NEITI Executive Secretary, Dr. Ogbonnaya Orji disclosed this on Tuesday while presenting the agency’s scorecard in the last seven months during a press briefing in Abuja.
“The NEITI reports based on findings in its 2019 audit of the oil and gas sector show that oil and gas companies in Nigeria owe government about $6.48bn, which equals N2.66tn at today’s exchange rate of N410.35,” he said.
“A breakdown of the figures shows that a total of $143.99m is owed as petroleum profit taxes, $1.089bn as company income taxes, and $201.69m as education tax.
“Others include $18.46m and £972,000 as Value Added Tax, $23.91m and £997,000 as withholding tax, $4.357bn as royalty oil, $292.44m as royalty gas, while $270.187m and $41.86m were unremitted gas flare penalties and concession rentals respectively.”
While underscoring the importance of the funds to the economy, he said that the agency is set to take measures to recover the money.
According to the NEITI boss, the disclosure was important in view of the government’s current search for revenue to address the demand for steady power, good roads, quality education, fight against insurgency, and job creation.
Orji explained that NEITI decided to provide relevant information and data to support the government’s efforts at recovering this money.
He also cautioned oil firms that NEITI would no longer watch while these debts continued to remain in its reports unaddressed.
The World Bank has listed Nigeria and nine other countries as nations with high-debt risk exposure.
In a financial statement for the International Development Association (IDA) released on Monday, the World Bank pegged Nigeria at number five with a $11.7b IDA debt stock.
“As of June 30, 2021, the ten countries with the highest exposures accounted for 66% of IDA’s total exposure,” it explained in the document.
“IDA’s largest exposure to a single borrowing country, India, was $22 billion as of June 30, 2021. Monitoring these exposures relative to the SBL, requires consideration of the repayment profiles of existing loans, as well as disbursement profiles and projected new loans and guarantees.”
India tops the list with an IDA debt stock of $22b. Bangladesh – with $18.1b – is second and followed by Pakistan ($16.4b), and Vietnam with $14.1b.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda complete the top 10 list in that order.
“IDA faces two types of credit risk: country credit risk and counterparty credit risk,” the World Bank further explained.
“Country credit risk is the risk of loss due to a country not meeting its contractual obligations, and counterparty credit risk is the risk of loss attributable to a counterparty not honoring its contractual obligations. IDA is exposed to commercial as well as noncommercial counterparty credit risk.”
As of September 2020, Nigeria had taken a $31.98b worth of loans from the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund (IMF), African Development Bank (AfDB), according to the Debt Management Office (DMO).
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has upheld an interim order granted to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) for the seizure of properties belonging to businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, for an alleged N69.4billion debt.
In a ruling which lasted nearly two hours on Tuesday, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, upheld the argument of AMCON’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) that AMCON made “full and substantial disclosure of all material facts” at the time of obtaining the orders on November 4, 2020.
The judge ruled that the order subsists.
The businessman, Mr Ibrahim, who is also a legal practitioner was in court and fully robed for the proceedings.
Alongside NICON Investment Ltd and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Ltd, Mr Ibrahim had asked the court to set aside the order for “non-disclosure and misrepresentation of material facts”.
He also asked the court to order AMCON to pay N50billion indemnity for alleged failure to conduct due diligence before obtaining the said order and for misrepresentation and concealment of fact.
But Justice Aikawa ruled against him.
On November 4, the court had granted the interim order and on November 18, AMCON announced that it had effectively taken over 12 properties belonging to the businessman and his firms.
The properties include the NICON Investment Ltd building, Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja; NICON Hotels Ltd building at Plot 557, Port-Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Abuja and the building of NICON Lekki Ltd also at No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos.
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has called on all agencies of the Federal Government and all stakeholders to join its debt recovery drive as the company hopes to secure an outstanding N4.4trillion.
AMCON in a statement issued on Sunday noted that a failure to recover the debt would further worsen the nation’s economy.
According to the agency, the N4.4trillion is bigger than the entire 2021 capital expenditure budget of the Federal Government, which stands at N3.85trillion.
If recovered, the agency believes that the money can go a long way in reviving the iron and steel sectors, as well as improving electricity in the country.
It also believes that this would involve the employment of more manpower which in turn would reduce the crime rate in the country.
“AMCON assured that it is determined to recover these debts because the money belongs to Nigerian taxpayers,” the statement read in part.
Read the full statement below.
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has raised a New Year alarm, calling on all agencies of the Federal Government and all stakeholders to join its debt recovery drive to guide against the huge opportunity cost of not recovering its huge total current exposure.
The Corporation disclosed that its current exposure stands at N4.4trillion.
This colossal outstanding going by the 2021 budget estimate rivals the entire budget of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
N4.4trillion, which is owed AMCON is bigger than the entire 2021 capital expenditure budget of the federal government of Nigeria, which stands at N3.85trillion. It is also bigger than the N3.12trillion for total foreign debt service for 2021 and personnel cost of N3.7trillion.
The development of the iron and steel sector as well as the electricity sector are essential ingredients to industrialisation in any country and the debt owed AMCON can do a lot in improving electricity generation and distribution as well as revival of the challenged iron and steel sector.
Similarly, AMCON added that the huge debt if recovered would be enough to capitalize over 2million Micro Businesses with N2million cash injection each or 200,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with N20million per SME, which would create over 10million jobs in the country.
By so doing, the agency said thousands of unemployed youths who are involved with all sorts of violent crimes would be engaged positively.
With all these facts and its negative effect to the economy, the Corporation explained that it would not be fair to allow this crop of obligors that have collectively destroyed the commonwealth of Nigerians escape justice, which is why it is calling on all sister agencies to support the recovery drive.
AMCON assured that it is determined to recover these debts because the money belongs to Nigerian taxpayers.
These startling revelations were contained in a paper Mr Joshua Ikioda, the Group Head of AMCON Enforcement presented in Abuja, which was titled “Overview of AMCON from Cradle to Date and the Implication of the Bad Debt to the Nigerian Economy.”
He made the presentation at the just concluded 2-day training for Federal High Court Legal Assistants and Court Registrars in Abuja.
The event was declared open by Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and attended by Dr Eberechukwu Uneze and Mr Aminu Ismail both Executive Directors of AMCON as well as Hon. Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha also of the Federal High Court.
AMCON MD/CEO Mr Ahmed Kuru in his keynote address at the beginning of the training, which ended at the weekend said AMCON cannot over flog the important role of the Judiciary in national development and as such remains vital to the success of AMCON.
Kuru who was represented by Dr Uneze said, “We are just a government recovery agency saddled with the responsibility of purchasing non-performing loans from Banks and ensuring it is paid back using the instrumentality of the law. Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be that easy, through the instrumentality of the courts as we encountered a lot of challenges.
“The obligors get wiser by the day, deliberately causing orchestrated legal delays knowing that AMCON has a sunset date. The Act was amended in 2015 to address some of the encountered challenges, again obligors got wiser, hence necessitating another amendment in 2019 all with the single objective of recovering the loans bought from banks in order to settle our debt without recourse to taxpayers money, this outstanding exposure is not a small amount of money.
“…Due to the limited lifespan of AMCON, there is a need for a speedy and simplified litigation process. The reason is clear: AMCON is a special purpose vehicle for the recovery of ‘toxic’ debts.
The debts are so bad that the government had to purchase them to prevent a collapse of the economy. AMCON’s mandate is therefore to recover these debts for our common survival to be guaranteed. The rationale behind the AMCON regime is therefore to quickly recover the bad debts within a legal framework that ensures speed without compromising fair hearing.
“AMCON jurisprudence is primarily regulated by the AMCON Act 2010 (as amended in 2015 and 2019), Federal High Court Practice Directions of 2013 and The Federal High Court AMCON Rules 2018.
The Directions and the Rules have introduced a new culture of expediency in determining AMCON matters at the Federal High Court.
Therefore, it is imperative for you to understand the AMCON spirit, which means speed and efficiency.”
Insisting that AMCON needs all hands to be on deck, the CEO added, “The amended AMCON Act 2019 was a robust attempt to address the shortcomings in the erstwhile AMCON Instruments i.e., the 2010 Principal enactment and the 2015 amendment.
Recognizing the challenges inherent in these Instruments that undermine the realization of the AMCON mandate, the AMCON Act was further amended in 2019. The objective of this amendment is to enhance the Corporation’s capacity and improve the supporting mandate for enforcement.
“I must also reiterate that the amendment also became very necessary given our experience with recalcitrant debtors who constantly try to avoid, circumvent, and totally deny commitments and obligations.
These obligors rather than settle their indebtedness, prefer to rely on technicalities to frustrate the Corporation from acting against them.
“The amended Act has far-reaching implications to the mandates of the Corporation in resolving troubled assets especially as they relate to recalcitrant obligors. The amended Act reposed the Corporation with phenomenal powers that are disconnected from common sense and convention.
Accordingly, it is very essential that the Corporation embarks on extensive public awareness by engaging the Hon. Registrars and Legal Assistants to the Hon. Judges of the Federal High Court,” Kuru concluded.
The training, which was organised by the Dr. Fatihu Abba-led Legal Academy under the auspices of the office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court was designed to enlighten Legal Assistants and Registrars of the Federal High Court on the AMCON mandate. It was themed, “The Role Of Registrars And Legal Assistants In The Effective And Efficient Realization Of AMCON Mandate.”
China last month joined other members of the G20 in agreeing to suspend interest payments on all loans owed by dozens of low-income countries, in a bid to ease pressure on developing economies ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of those nations are in Africa and getting China onboard was considered something of a coup for the G20. But there are some reservations about how far China will really deliver on its side of the deal.
What is the G20 agreement?
The world’s top economies agreed last month to suspend interest payments on all official loans owed by 73 low-income countries — 40 in Africa — until the end of June and extended the repayment period.
“The debt service suspension initiative has provided much needed ‘breathing space’ to countries,” said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
While the United Nations led calls for the suspension to be prolonged until the end of 2021, the G20 said it would examine the recommendation when the IMF and World Bank meet next spring “if the economic and financial situation requires” such an extension.
The final communique did not offer any guarantees.
– What is the situation at the moment?
China is the biggest investor in Africa, pumping about $148 billion in railroads, ports and airports in exchange for securing oil and commodity supplies such as copper and cobalt, according to data from the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University.
These infrastructure projects are built by China lending the countries vast loans but Beijing has been criticised in the past for lending too much to poor countries, without scrutinising their ability to repay.
The 73 countries’ debt owed to government creditors, most of whom are in the G20, reached $178 billion last year, of which China is owed more than 63 percent.
However, with the pandemic hammering the global economy, those in the developing world, and particularly Africa, are feeling the pain even more with plummeting prices for oil — a major export for many countries — drying up a crucial source of income and their ability to pay.
What has China agreed to and why is it significant?
Chinese lenders have suspended debt service payments worth $2.1 billion, the highest among the G20. The group has in total suspended $5.3 billion worth of loan repayments by 44 debtor countries. The next biggest contributor is France with $810 million.
Beijing is by far the biggest creditor of African countries, and has up to now declined to participate in international frameworks to address debt issues. Joining the G20 plan marks a major shift for the world’s second biggest economy, raising hopes of greater transparency over its African debt portfolio.
China has forgiven African debt in the past but this time it is working with other countries.
But its reasons for joining the agreement might not be entirely altruistic, Elling N. Tjønneland, at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, told AFP.
China has opted to join “because there is no other option in many cases”, he said. “The borrower is not able to service the loan so Chinese lenders will have to find a solution.”
Is this as good as it sounds?
Simply put, no. The $2.1 billion figure compares with $13.4 billion owed to China this year by countries eligible for relief, according to the World Bank.
The lack of transparency and co-ordination among big Chinese policy banks has made it difficult to renegotiate debt, while African countries have borrowed more from private lenders than through official bilateral loans.
Private lenders are not covered under the G20 agreement and Chinese lenders operate in silos meaning there is a lack of information about what has been lent to whom.
“China has said that it was fully involved, but they didn’t have a process to get all of their big creditors… to work together, and take into account the new reality,” World Bank president David Malpass said at an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on December 14.
Also, Beijing is not part of the Paris Club, a group that includes most Western countries and multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and which shares data on loans allowing creditors to jointly negotiate and share the burden equitably.
“Chinese lenders prefer to address restructuring quietly on a bilateral basis tailoring programmes to each situation,” Deborah Brautigam, from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told AFP.
“This lack of transparency fuels suspicions about Chinese intentions.”
With this in mind, the G20 is urging countries to push for concessions from private lenders but analysts say they will likely play hardball, not wanting to give concessions for fear of setting a precedent for future debtors.
“About 31 percent of Africa’s external debt is owed to private bondholders compared to about 17 percent to China,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow at the China Center at the Brookings Institution.
“So there is a real need for cuts in interest rates or debt relief by private payers.”
China on Friday issued a statement calling on all UN member states to “actively fulfill their financial obligations to the United Nations,” stressing that Washington owes the organization more than $2 billion.
“As of May 14, the total unpaid assessments under the UN regular budget and peacekeeping budget amount to 1.63 billion and 2.14 billion US dollars respectively,” the Chinese statement said, citing a report from the UN Secretary-General’s office and a meeting held on Thursday.
Including arrears that stretch back several years, “the United States is the largest debtor, owing 1.165 billion and 1.332 billion US dollars respectively,” China added.
The US is the biggest contributor to the UN budget, paying 22 percent of its annual running costs, a bill which adds up to around $3 billion; and 25 percent of its peacekeeping operations, which amount to some $6 billion a year.
Officially, Washington is meant to pay 27.89 percent of the peacekeeping budget, but a decision made by Congress and implemented by President Donald Trump in 2017 cut that payment to 25 percent, meaning Washington runs up an annual shortfall of $200 million.
The United States also has a fiscal year that runs from October to October, which can make it look like an even bigger debtor at certain times of the year.
The US mission to the UN dismissed the call, saying China is “eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, and this is yet another example.”
It continued: “The United States recently made a payment of $726 million toward its peacekeeping assessment, and per practice will pay the bulk of its assessment at the end of the calendar year.”
It said the total peacekeeping arrears was $888 million, adding: “Roughly two-thirds of this amount is the result of payment at the rate of 25 percent from 2017 through the present.”
The payment of contributions by member countries for peacekeeping operations has a direct impact on the reimbursements the UN pays to countries that contribute troops to the 15 or so missions around the world.
In a report on May 11, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “there may be significant delays towards the middle of the year, unless the cash position across missions improves significantly.”
On Thursday, around 50 of the 193 member states, including China, paid their contributions in full, which Beijing — the second-largest contributor, far behind the United States — noted in its statement.
China pays around 12 percent of the UN’s running costs and around 15 percent of the peacekeeping budget.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Wednesday called for governments to put a hold on debt payments from the world’s poorest nations so they can battle the coronavirus pandemic.
“The World Bank Group and the IMF believe it is imperative at this moment to provide a global sense of relief for developing countries as well as a strong signal to financial markets,” the Washington-based development lenders said in a joint statement.
The move aims to help countries that are home to two-thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty — largely in sub-Saharan Africa — and qualify for the most generous, low-cost loans from the International Development Association (IDA) financed by wealthier nations.
“The coronavirus outbreak is likely to have severe economic and social consequences for IDA countries” which will face “immediate liquidity needs to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak,” the organization said.
The IMF and World Bank called on the Group of 20 nations to support the initiative for “all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance.”
In addition, the institutions called for an analysis of the financing needs these countries will face, and whether their total debt load is sustainable.
Part of the World Bank, the IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, providing zero or low interest loans spread over 30 years or more, and grants to some distressed nations.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, IDA commitments totaled $22 billion, of which 36 percent was provided on grant terms, according to the World Bank.
The Nigerian Government has put the total public debt stock of the nation at $83 billion.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, disclosed this while addressing a press conference on Monday in Ikeja, Lagos State.
He decried that the country’s debt stock was being misrepresented by those he described as scaremongers.
According to Mohammed, Nigeria is not in debt trouble as being circulated as the nation is within a reasonable debt to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio.
He explained that the debt was an accumulation of successive government activities, adding that the economic state of the country was good.
The minister said, “The public debt stock is actually a cumulative figure of borrowings by successive governments over many years. It is, therefore, not appropriate to attribute the public debt stock to one administration.
“Nigeria’s total public debt stock in 2015 was $63.80 billion, comprising $10.31 billion of external debt and $53.49 billion domestic debt. By June 2019, the total debt stock was $83.883 billion, made up of $27.163 billion of external debt and $56.720 billion domestic debt.”
“It is, therefore, not correct to say that Nigeria’s external debt alone is $81.274 billion. There is yet no cause for alarm.
“This is because Nigeria has a debt ceiling of 25% in the total public debt stock to Gross Domestic Product (Debt/GDP), which it has operated within,” he added.
The minister noted that the economy has grown in the year 2019 under review, adding that the oil and non-oil sectors performed better than they did in 2018.
He also highlighted some of the feats recorded by the government in the areas of anti-corruption war and security.
Mohammed said the corruption fight was largely successful and while security, especially the insurgency in the North East has been tackled properly.
He, however, admitted that there were still pockets of attacks in the region, saying the government was on top of the situation.
The minister also informed the reporters that the government has made progress in providing food for the people, saying Nigeria was close to food self-sufficiency.
He also defended the continued closure of the nation’s borders, saying it has helped local food production and curbed crime and violent activities.
Another benefit of border closure, according to Mohammed, is the decline noticed in the rate of illegal migration into the country.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate in Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore, has alleged that Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s administration plans to plunge the state into debt by awarding a fake contract worth billions of naira.
Omisore made the claims after meeting with the Traditional Ruler of Ilesha, Adekunle Aromolaran, at his palace in the state.
Also, he claimed the governor was taking the steps to get the state indebted “because it is clear that his party (APC) has lost the September 22, 2018 governorship election.”
Omisore further alleged that the state government plans to issue an Irrevocable Standing Payment to a company in charge of construction work for the next 15 years.
He accused the government of embedding the “disingenuous scheme” in “a fake contract document”.
But the state government rejected the allegations.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Mr Adelani Baderinwa, branded the claims as “spurious allegations” and called on people in the state to ignore them.
Boderinwa said the claims amounted to “gross irresponsibility” by SDP and Omisore.
He accused the SDP candidate and the party of feeding the people “half-truths, outright lies and insinuations in a desperate move to seek attention”.
The commissioner also rejected claims that N7.22 billion is deducted monthly from Osun State’s allocation.
He said, “The official report of the National Bureau of Statistics put both the internal and external loans, bonds and other credit line obtained by the State Government to N179bn in September 2017.”
Baderinwa, however, explained that the “debt is getting reduced monthly as payment is made based on upfront deductions from allocations.”
He said, “Governor Aregbesola had stated that the conventional loan obtained by the government would be settled in 2019 while the N11.4bn Sukuk would be fully paid back in 2020.
“The Accountant General of the state had also in May this year stated that the total debt left for the state to pay was N143.6bn. These are verifiable facts and anybody saying anything to the contrary is only out for mischief of political purpose.”
Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, on Thursday, explained the rationale behind the Federal Government’s decision to borrow $5.5billion.
Amid concerns raised by Nigerians about the nation’s foreign debt profile, Adeosun, who appeared on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, said: “we are not in a huge amount of debt.”
The minister’s statement comes more than two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the National Assembly, seeking the approval for $5.5bn external loans to finance the 2017 Appropriation Act.
She, however, maintained that the country’s debt profile stands low when compared to developed nations.
“Nigeria’s borrowings are actually low relative to the size of our GDP; it is one of the areas where we are doing very well. We have a debt GDP of 17 percent; Ghana is 68, South Africa is about 52, most developed countries are about 50.
“The threshold for a developing economy is 40; we are 17, Britain is 89, America is over a hundred. Even Germany which is probably the most conservative borrowing country in Europe is 68. So we are not in the huge amount of debt,” the minister said.
On the controversy trailing the proposed loan, She said, “Out of that $5.5bn, $2.5bn is for the 2017 budget, $3bn is simply to refinance money that we already owe. We inherited a lot of treasury bills; so every 90 days, those bills mature and we have to pay interest on them.
“So what we want to do is to take $3bn and then as the treasury bills mature, we will refinance from naira into dollar,” she added.