The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Thursday in Abuja asked the National Assembly to quickly approve the Federal Government’s external borrowing plan of $7.9b about N1.8 trillion.
Okonjo-Iweala made the request during an oversight visit to her office, by members of the House Committee on Finance.
President Goodluck Jonathan had written the Senate and House of Representatives in February seeking approval for the loans to fund key projects in various sectors of the economy.
Nigeria is seeking the loan facility from the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Exim Bank of China and India lines of credit.
``We have an external borrowing plan that we have put to the National Assembly, as we are required to do and I am really counting on your help to get out the borrowing plan as quickly as possible.''
The minister said that the loan was required to complete some ongoing projects captured in the 2012 budget.
According to her, government will spend the loan on several projects in agriculture, water resources and power.
On the monthly meeting of Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), which distributes money to the three tiers of government, the minister explained that delay in disbursing funds was not an issue of concern.
She said, ``We are depending on a resource (crude oil) that sells in the market, remember sometimes when you sell in the market, you do not get the money right away.
``Just like an ordinary seller in the market there are sometimes when you are selling to your customers, they will tell you that I will bring the money later please give me credit for one or two days.''
She, however, conceded that the country was facing a major challenge of drop in the oil production due to ongoing massive theft of crude oil in the Niger Delta region.
``That has direct impact on output, which may impact on revenues.''
The minister, however, stated that Nigeria's finance was very solvent and ruled out the possibility of any fiscal crisis as a result of the massive oil bunkering activities in the Niger Delta.
``As of this moment, we are meeting all our bills, we have not experienced any crunch, but we need to face some of the challenges squarely.
``I believe the government is facing some challenges and our security agencies are fully aware.’’
Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, told the visiting legislators that the ongoing political and economic turmoil in some EU member countries had created fresh economic uncertainty for the country.
``Because 60 per cent of our exports go to the Eurozone and the US, we should always be mindful of what is happening there.
``Because it may have a direct impact on us in terms of demand for our products.’’
Commenting on the FAAC meeting, the Minister of State, Dr Yerima Ngama said the anti-fuel subsidy demonstrations in January this year slowed down the flow of revenue to the Federation.
According to the Minister, the monthly FAAC meeting has been reverted to the former dates of 18th and 19th, as against 12th and 13th of each month.
Ngama attributed the delay in the payment of salaries of public workers to ongoing software upgrade of the payment module deployed by government for payment of salaries.
He assured Nigeria workers that the delay would be over as soon as the software issues were resolved.
In his response, Abdulmumin Jibrin, Chairman, House Committee on Finance, assured the minister that the house would consider the request for the external borrowing plan, tabled since February.
``We are partners in progress and whatever request that comes from you be rest assured that we will take it very seriously and give it priority attention.''
Jibrin requested the ministry to monitor more closely remittance of internally general revenue (IGR) to government coffers from government revenue generating agencies such as Nigeria Customs Services.
He also called for close monitoring of all revenue-generating agencies in the non-oil sector to ensure proper remittance of actual revenues accruing to government.