DMO faults forex volatility, others for public debt rise

The Debt Management Office (DMO) has explained that the rise in Nigeria’s public debt stock is partly due to exchange rate volatility, new borrowing, and Ways and Means securitisation.

In a statement posted on its website, the DMO noted that the debt growth resulted from authorised new external and domestic borrowing, alongside the securitisation of the Ways and Means advances.

These measures, the DMO said, have been implemented to attract foreign exchange inflows, which are expected to bolster external reserves and support the naira exchange rate.

The DMO addressed the trend in total debt data between the fourth quarter of 2023 (Q4 2023) and the first quarter of 2024 (Q1 2024), noting that the increase of N24.33 trillion in naira terms has been misinterpreted as new borrowing. The actual new borrowing comprises: N2.81 trillion as part of the new domestic borrowing of N6.06 trillion provided in the 2024 Appropriation Act and N4.90 trillion as part of the securitization of the N7.3 trillion Ways and Means Advances approved by the National Assembly.

Additionally, the official naira exchange rate depreciation from USD/N899.39 in Q4 2023 to USD/N1,330.26 in Q1 2024 significantly impacted the debt stock valuation in naira terms.

Despite the perceived sharp increase in total debt stock, the DMO clarified that the total external debt stock remained relatively stable, from USD42.50 billion in Q4 2023 to USD42.12 billion in Q1 2024.

However, the naira valuation showed a substantial difference, from N38.22 trillion to N56.02 trillion, due to the exchange rate depreciation. This exchange rate effect explains the N24.33 trillion increase in the total debt stock for Q1 2024.

In US dollar terms, the total debt stock actually declined from USD97.34 billion in Q4 2023 to USD91.46 billion in Q1 2024, highlighting the impact of exchange rate changes on debt valuation.

Director General of DMO, Patience Oniha, in a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said it is important to recognise the fact that Nigeria has undergone some major reforms which have impacted economic indices such as the dollar/naira exchange rate and interest rates.

“These two, in particular, affect the debt stock and debt service,” she said.

According to Oniha, the total external debt stock was relatively flat at $42.50 billion and $42.12 billion in Q4 2023, and Q1 2024, respectively.

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