Nigeria’s Debt Management Office released it’s report for the first half of 2022. The country’s collective debt profile was revealed to have increased to a staggering $100 Billion which is equivalent to about N41 Trillion. This is an increase from December 2022’s quoted figure of N39.56 Trillion, about N2.04 Trillion in the space of six months. The public debt figure represents the entire domestic and international debt stocks of the Federal Government of Nigeria covering the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

The N2.04 Trillion figure increase includes the new domestic figure borrowed by the Federal Government to finance the deficit in the 2022 Appropriation Act, disbursements by multilateral and bilateral lenders and the $1.25 Billion Eurobond borrowed in March 2022. The Debt Management Office also revealed that the total public debt GDP now stands at 23.7% which has fallen below Nigeria’s self-imposed 40% limit.



In December 1999, Nigeria owed just a little over N3.5 Trillion. Fast forward to March 2021 and that figure has risen astronomically by 658% to N29.6 Trillion. Another year later, Nigeria’s debt profile hits N41 Trillion. In the 22 years it has risen, Nigeria has endured four different federal administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umar Musa Yara’dua, Goodluck Jonathan and the current Muhammad Buhari.

Each of the administrations except the Obasanjo administration has seen at least an 50% debt increase but the spike has come the most under the current administration of President Muhammad Buhari who has almost tripled Nigeria’s net debt from when his government was sworn into office till today.

The Buhari led-administration incurred a N7.6 Trillion debt just between June 2015 to December 2020. By December 2020, the administration had increased Nigeria’s external debt from $7.3 Billion to $21.27 Billion via foreign loans to the country’s portfolio. Overall the Buhari-led administration has accumulated N17.06 Trillion in debt which represents a 340% increase from when he assumed office in 2015.

This figure is excessive in comparison to the 58.8% debt accumulated under Goodluck Jonathan, Yara’dua’s 24% increase in the one year he served as president before his demise, and Obasanjo’s negative debt position of -27% as he was the only President of Nigeria to lead his administration to reduce Nigeria’s domestic and international debt.



In saner climes, countries borrow to finance productive projects or assets that will appreciate over time. Countries also borrow in accordance with laid down financial laws to maintain the symmetry between the legislature and the executive arms of government while ensuring sustainability of due process and control of the economic situation. The opposite of that is the case in what was once Africa’s economic giant. Most notoriously under the current administration, the government at the federal and state level has completely compromised the financial laws of the constitution to borrow within and above their means for white elephant projects which are almost never always started or executed completely at the appropriate standard.

Last year, the current administration exceeded the fiscal borrowing threshold as stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibly Act and the CBN Act 2007. The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed purportedly insisted that the immediate past COVID-19 scourge was enough reason to breach the financial law. However, other African and Western countries in regions that were affected more seriously by COVID-19 than Nigeria did not have to exceed financial thresholds to deal with the scourge and the economic problems it brought with it. Again in 2020, the country’s budget deficit was at about four percent of the country’s GDP, breaking the law yet again.

By the end of 2020, The Central Bank of Nigeria had approved overdrafts to the Federal Government, exceeding their overdraft limit by 69% of the revenue generated. The overdraft was about N2.9 Trillion and the revenue in the year was N4.1 Trillion. A flagrant disregard for financial laws being exercised by the approval and appropriation of loans that have been mismanaged corruptly by the people who are not being held accountable for their economic actions has resulted in the heavy debt profile of the Nigerian Federation.



While borrowing is arguably necessary to improve a country’s system and structures, sustainability, transparency and a strategic repayment plan. The lack of the necessary plan to repay loans will result in accumulation that does not bode well for a country’s economic stance. The signs of the worrying debt profile are beginning to show on the streets and homes of Nigerian citizens.

The loans that were taken to paper the cracks have sufficiently held still until recent years as the widespread inflation has begun to take it’s toll on the retail markets that support the standard of living in Nigeria. Prices of basic commodities are on the rise and a few common items are now basically luxury. The rising debt has triggered the government to enforce tax laws that have caused markets to raise their products and service prices. Sadly, the average Nigerian’s minimum wage of  N30,000 has not been increased to substantiate the growing market prices. These has caused the current standard of living to drop massively.

To paint a better picture of the current situation, two cups of beans are currently going for N250 in the market. Nigeria’s highest currency denomination is the N1000 note. This means that the N1000 note is worth just 8 cups of beans! That is the kind of struggle that the average Nigerian has to put up with daily. It also does not help that the loans are not getting repaid as creditors are now confident of seizing national assets that were used as collateral to apply for the loans.

This could result in a loss of ownership of nationwide assets or infrastructure that bring in revenue for the government e.g. airports, sea ports and government owned businesses. The last thing that needs to happen is the loss of control over revenue-based government assets. This will triple the retail market prices and reduce the average Nigerian citizen to a state of economic despair. The future is bleak with economic uncertainty and financial trepidation.



As all wars begin, the fight against the rising debt should start from the drawing board. Nigeria’s government borrows in the most outdated manner. Many other countries borrow much more than we borrow but have no trouble paying back. Borrowing must be done intelligently and efficiently in a way that services the debt.

Nigeria’s government does not link their debts to any assets. They just go to the Treasury bill market and take a loan at any rate they are given which is absurd. Debts should be structured like investments with an underlying asset through which we can use to recover the principal amount that we borrowed plus profit. We borrow more and spend less with no commensurate rise in revenue to counter the rising debt.

Most importantly, the problem is of corrupt leadership. Most of the loans are unnecessary and are just filleted and pocketed by the ruling elite. Nigeria needs a total moral reset as our moral bankruptcy has given our leaders enough leverage to take loans under the guise of development only to funnel these loans to their individual accounts and pockets without any shred of thoughtfulness towards the people they should be serving.

Until the general corruptive mindset is fixed and leaders who are in positions just for their stomach agenda are ousted, a proactive approach to Nigeria’s debt control is still off the cards.

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