Minister Says 5000 Companies Owed Ten Government Agencies N5.2trn Meant For Federation Account

By Suleiman Umaru

This is not the best of times for Companies and individuals doing business with Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs. This is because of the huge debts which the companies and individuals doing business with the MDAs, had made the agencies to owe the government.

 Indeed, barely six months for the Buhari Administration, to elapse,  Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning who  was  presented  by Victor Omata, Director, Special Projects  in the ministry  at the south west   zonal sensitization  Workshop  on the FG  debt recovery drive   through  the Project Lighthouse  programme on Thursday, December 16, 2022,   had revealed that the ministry has  ‘‘discovered monumental  debs  of over N5.2 trillion across 10 MDAs, which many believe was more than the country’ external debt that had been  accumulated by the government over the last seven years.

 The message was very clear that if the debts has been recovered from the MDAs, the Nigerian government would never have any need to seek for loans from multilateral financial Institutions or the World bank to execute critical projects across the country. This may have informed why Hajia Ahmed and the ministry officials have intensified efforts to recover the debts ahead of the 2023 general elections.

As a prelude to the recovery of the huge debts owed the government by the 10 agencies, the minister who may be acting on the mandate  of President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have directed all the government Enterprises ‘‘to henceforth update their list of debtors on a monthly basis against the Project Lighthouse’’ debt recovery portfolio.

According to her  the ‘‘ project lighthouse ‘’ is a data driven  artificial  intelligence engine  that  provides the ministry  with an intelligence  and profiling platform ‘‘to aid in policy  formulation , implementation  and assessing the impacts of those policies  on its MDAs  to develop   a more efficient   revenue assessment methodology   by ensuring  that  major revenue loopholes  are blocked, and   to ensure that their revenue generation is dramatically improved by identifying new revenue opportunities  and optimize existing revenue sources , particular, non –oil revenue as well as improve fiscal transparency’’.  

 Note that the debt recovery drive initiated by the ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the minister had said    had resulted in the recovery of about   N3.5 trn   in the last   the last 12 to 18 months , through the  Government Integrated  Financial Management  Information System,  FMIS, as a’ ‘recovery touch point’’.

She had told those that cares to listen that a perfunctory review  of the  MDAs debt profile which it had   perceived  shows     a’ ‘significant  financial loopholes’’  which had  had  encouraged her  ‘‘ to issue  a directive  on September 26, 2019,  to all  the government agencies  in a bid   ‘‘to integrate  all government debts  across all  MDAs  with a view ‘ ‘ to having a single window  on debt profile of government.’’  She had her way.

She noted that sequel to the issuance of the Finance circular, the ministry through the consolidation efforts of the debt recovery drive  has been able to integrate the MDAs  N5.2 trn owed the government into one single window platform , noting that the debt aggregation is still on going.

 There are indications that N42 billion has been recovered through the project lighthouse programme from the government agencies in the recent time. Given the additional measures that was said to have been put in  place by the ministry in the debts recovery drive, financial analysts are of the view  that more recovery of the outstanding debts from the one percent unpaid   stamp duty   would still  be made from the MDAs   before the expiration of the present  Buhari  Administration  on May 29, 2023.  

 This may be possible, according to an insider because the ministry  has leveraged on  the integrated  data technology  to help block  areas of revenue leakages in the government agencies.

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