The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Development, Zainab Ahmed, has clarified why Nigeria was not among the beneficiaries considered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for debt relief.
Earlier this week, the IMF granted debt relief to 25 countries and Nigeria was left out of the list of the beneficiaries..
In a statement released in Abuja yesterday, the finance minister confirmed that stated that “It is true that Nigeria is not a beneficiary of the recent IMF debt relief for 25 countries.”
“This is because, as stated in the IMF Executive Board statement, the relief provides grants to our poorest and most vulnerable members to cover their IMF debt obligations for an initial phase over the next six months”
Since Nigeria, according to her, is not indebted to the IMF, there is no outstanding debt obligation to be forgiven.
Ahmed disclosed that Nigeria’s application for new IMF financing is under consideration and receiving attention.
The new application is for financing under the Rapid Financing Initiative (RFI). It is a loan to be paid back, as Nigeria is entitled to access up to 100 per cent of its quota under the RFI.
But while announcing the debt relief recently, the Managing Director of the Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, said it was part of the group’s response to help address the impact of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic on poor and vulnerable economies.
She listed the benefiting countries as Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, D.R., The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali and Mozambique.
Others are Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Togo, and Yemen.
The relief, Ms Georgieva explained, would help the benefiting countries channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts.
Commenting on this development, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, said Nigeria deserved to be granted debt pardon from IMF/World Bank.
Mr Wabba said the demand for Nigeria’s inclusion among the list of beneficiaries for the COVID-19 related debt relief and debt moratorium was because of the devastating impact of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
As the most populous country in Africa and a major regional transportation hub, with very active citizens, the labour leader said Nigeria could be a major epicentre for future global waves of COVID-19 if adequate support was not extended to the country to fight and contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the burgeoning constituency of the poor, including the working-class poor, the danger staring Nigeria hard in the face is huge.
“Nigeria needs all the support it can get, including debt relief, moratorium, and pardon in order to enable the country tide over the waves of COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.