Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) met in Abuja, yesterday, and reviewd the $4 billion World Bank intervention in some secotrs of the Nigerian economy in their respective states.
The NGF has also asked the World Bank to extend its lending portfolio to federal and state governments, saying at one percent lending rate it was far cheaper that 25 percent commercial rate.
The country’s debt is N24.4 trillion, up from the 2017 figure of N21.725 trillion, which despite the 12.25 per cent increase from 2017, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Idris Ahmed, maintained that the current debt profile was “efficiently sustainable.”
NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stated this at a joint press briefing with the World Bank Country Director, Rachid Benmessaoud, after a one-day interactive session on the bank’s ongoing development engagement across states in the country, yesterday.
Fayemi, who said the meeting was to look at ways of engaging the bank’s subsisting portfolio and reviewing things that states are doing right, what they need to improve on and how to accelerate deployment of resources that is available within the portfolio for states, noted that the question of not having enough resources needed to be addressed.
He said: “There is a question, of course, of also not having enough resources and the need to expand the lending portfolio from what it is now, to the federal government and the sub-national entity. It is absolutely important that that vehicle is not closed because if we can borrow from the World Bank, at one percent interest, it is always going to be better for us than for us to borrowing at 25 percent commercial lending rate. That is a no brainer, we will all agree with that.”
Fayemi said the bank is currently spending in the region of $4 billion in states which include grants, loans, investments in states, with long term moratorium and with low interest, over a long period of time, to offset those loan portfolios.
He said it is important for governors and the World Bank to work on that engagement in terms of the lending operations, adversary activities and the concrete actions in the states.
Fayemi said: “I don’t know of many development partners that have programmes in 36 states.
“The World Bank does and all of our governors were present at this meeting and that makes the statement about the importance attached to this partnership with the World Bank.
“We had an extensive discussion on how to improve on existing relationship and how to build on those projects that have transitioned from one governor to the other. The NGF has proposed a range of suggestions which the Bank has taken up and will be implementing in other to better the relationship we have built over the years.”
The NGF chairman stressed that for governors, the engagement “was about development.
On his part, Benmessaoud noted that the number of poor people have increased in Nigeria, in terms of number, although the trend is decreasing.
“Fighting poverty in Nigeria and Africa is going to be absolutely critical for reducing poverty globally. So, therefore, our priorities, which we have engaged with the governors, will be around investing in human capital, investing in people to have access to basic education, health services, social protection.
“But, we do recognise that development challenges also require investing in infrastructure and filling the large infrastructure gaps. But, with that, we want to make sure that those infrastructure gaps are filled by bringing more of the private sector in, so that will enable to create the physical space for governors to invest in human capital including financing from development partners like the World Bank. But most importantly, to increase the domestic revenue mobilisation for providing primary spending in the social sector.”