Stakeholders Call for Responsible Debt Management, Fiscal Reforms

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Several stakeholders in Nigeria, including policymakers, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), media and others from diverse sectors, yesterday urged the government to ensure responsible debt management as well as institutionalise fiscal reforms.

In a communiqué released after a national policy dialogue on fiscal reforms and debt management in Abuja, organised by OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative under its Growth Initiatives For Fiscal Responsibility (GIFT) project, they said these were key to sustainable development in Nigeria.

The GIFT project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) Project, implemented by Palladium.

Signatories to the communiqué included: Executive Director, OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative , Oke Epia; Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekere and Executive Director, Public and  Private Development Centre (PPD), Jubril Shittu.

The groups stated that from the rise in Nigeria’s total debt stock at N12.85 trillion in 2015 to a staggering N87.91 trillion in September 2023, the bungled N22.7 trillion Ways and Means facility to the federal government, to the ever-changing FX rates, inflation, and economic hardships, current fiscal policy failures are evident.

Recently, they noted that citizens had been met with a flurry of tax burdens, such as the removal of fuel subsidies, which has led to an over 300 per cent increase in the price of fuel.

 Despite several streams of revenue generation schemes, the country’s public finance, debt profile and fiscal health, the groups said, continue to take a downward turn.

On the other hand, the inflation rates, they explained have risen as high as 33.69 per cent in April 2024, as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported.

“This alarming surge in the inflation rate underscores the ongoing economic hurdles our nation faces, dealing a blow to the hopes of millions of Nigerians who anticipate a decrease in the prices of goods and services.

“Fiscal and monetary authorities such as the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, Debt Management Office, and Federal Inland Revenue Services struggle to redirect the Nigerian economy, further highlighting the need for better debt management and fiscal reforms,” the stressed.

According to the stakeholders, this prompted the hosting of the pivotal event focused on fiscal reforms and debt management, aiming to address critical challenges and foster sustainable economic growth.

Bringing together policymakers, the event, they said, facilitated insightful discussions and constructive exchanges on the pressing issues concerning fiscal responsibility.

Aside Epia and other participants, the Chairman Fiscal Responsibility Commission,  represented by the Special Adviser, Chris Uwadoka, made a  goodwill presentations.

Other speakers included: The Chairman of the House Committee on National Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Isiaka Ibrahim; Charles Abana, Head Directorate of Legal, Investigation and Enforcement, FRC as well as Olusegun Elemu, Executive Director, Paradigm Leadership Initiative (PLSI).

Ibrahim, said the lawmakers unwaveringly support fiscal reforms, particularly the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 repeal and enactment bill (HB.1748), which is currently before the House and has been passed for second reading.

He stated that the public can begin to prepare their memoranda for submission towards the public hearing for the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, repeal and enactment bill (HB.1748).

“In conclusion, the insights garnered from this event will serve as a foundation for ongoing dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders committed to advancing fiscal responsibility and sustainable economic growth.

“The GIFT project is dedicated to supporting evidence-based policy reforms and capacity-building initiatives that promote fiscal reforms and sustainability,” the communiqué stressed.

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