- To set up Debt Management Bureau
By Laleye Dipo
The Niger State Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Zakari Abubakar, has said that the state’s debt profile has hit between N60 and N65 billion.
This is just as the government plans to establish a “Debt Management Bureau” and also grant full autonomy to the state procurement board.
Speaking with a few journalists while entering the state House of Assembly complex Minna, Wednesday, Abubakar said the debt profile of the state included the bonds entered into by the previous administrations in the state, bailout as well as budget support funds got from the federal government, among others.
Despite the huge debt, the commissioner said: “The state debt sustainability ratio is still in the lower 20 per cent threshold. We are doing everything possible to keep the debt within manageable level. Our debt profile in terms of sustainability is in the best in the country.”
The commissioner said for proper debt management and to strengthen the debt management processes, government has decided to set up a “Debt Management Bureau” which he said will give clear processes to the debt of the state.
He said that a special account, where certain percentage of the state income will be put for the management of its debt, will also be set up, adding that the intention is to ensure transparency and assure stakeholders that government is determined to honour all its financial obligations at all times.
Abubakar stated that government has also decided to give full autonomy to the state Procurement Board to enable it operate without any interference from any quarters, adding that the Commissioner for Finance who used to be the chairman of the Board is to be replaced by a retired High Court judge or a retired civil servant that must have risen to the position of a Permanent Secretary before leaving service.
He said the chairman of the Board will be expected to go through screening and obtain the confirmation of the House of Assembly as one of the steps to guarantee its autonomy.
Other members of the Board will be representatives of the Ministry of Justice, local government, planning and the organised labour.
He said government has decided to operate the Procurement Board electronically, adding that the putting up of a portal has reached an advanced stage.
“We want to be sure we are available to the public all the time but with less physical contact,” Abubakar said.
As a result, he said two bills — one on the establishment of the Debt Management Bureau and the other Niger State Procurement Board — will be sent to the House of Assembly for passage into law soon.
The commissioner said that government will continue to be alive to its responsibility, especially in the management of its scarce resources.