As the legislative debate on the 2022 budget, which was presented to the joint session of lawmakers by President Muhammadu Buhari last week continued on Wednesday, members of the House of Representatives expressed concerns over the high rate of debt servicing.
While each lawmaker took turns to speak on the highlight of the budget which stood at N16.39 trillion, they maintained that the proposed budgetary provision for debt servicing was 25 per cent of the entire budget, saying it was on the high side.
Those who spoke extensively on the worrisome debt servicing was the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Luke Onofiok who observed that the sum of N3.9 trillion for debt servicing representing about 25 percent of the whole budget was worrisome.
He called for a downward review, stating that Nigeria was too fragile to service debts at that high rate, given that the nation was still facing the COVID-19 challenges.
On the external and internal borrowing to service budget deficits, he posited: “Another source of concern is that the proposal before us has a deficit of N6.2 trillion and the government is proposing new borrowings to finance this deficit.
“What this implies is that the total public debt of Nigeria is expected to rise to N5 trillion in 2022 fiscal year. This is worrisome not only for today but generations unborn and the future of Nigeria.”
He called on lawmakers to reduce the borrowing or the executive should assure the parliamentarians that the borrowing was production and not consumption.
He argued that it would be inappropriate to borrow and leave debt for generations yet unborn, stressing that if it’s put into production with expected income, there won’t be any concern.
The lawmaker called for deliberate funding of power and road infrastructure, saying: “While we put the money borrowed to infrastructure three clear things come to mind. We have looked at security. We need to invest in power. Let us borrow to invest in power and roads. We have road challenges across the country. Let me use for instance Mr. Speaker, the Calabar-Itu road that area is being cut-off.
“People spend 8 hours on the road. And we have seen something less than a billion naira allotted to that road in the different lots that have been given. That is quite inadequate. We have to invest in our roads and in our public transportation.”
House Minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, spoke on the high rate of debt servicing, noting that the nation can’t afford such at this time.