On behalf of the National Assembly, I wish to gladly welcome you. I am sure by now you must have become acquainted with the legendary Nigerian hospitality as well as the diverse socio-cultural paradigms that have over time hallmarked the strength of this great nation of about 120 million people. May I seize this opportunity to especially thank the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its strident assistance to boost Nigeria’s economic programmes, namely the Medium Term Economic Programme (MTEP), which is a precondition for debt relief from our international creditors in addition to the restoration of international trading credit facility.

Today, Nigeria is privatising most of its public institutions and utilities. With support from the IMF, we have through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) successfully divested government’s stakes in some public utilities, from telecommunications to energy while many more divestitures would be undertaken in the coming years. On this again, I say thank you.

By benefit of hindsight, it is clear to me that the IMF was pivotal to the successes of the Asian Tigers whose economies were once on the precipice of collapse. But today, through IMF’s mission-critical economic prescriptions and recipes, these countries have not only overcome their internal economic turmoil, they are challenging the opulence and robustness of Western economies.

In administering such prescriptions to the Nigerian ailment, I invite you to take a closer look at our peculiar circumstances. This moment, as I speak to you, we are operating a monocultural economy with low trade and huge external debt stock. This has continually undermined our concerted and concrete attempts at economic recovery. Due to these extenuating economic circumstances, devaluation of our currency has not always produced the desired result.

By 1999 when this democratic government was inaugurated, the nation’s debt profile stood at over $30 billion. It would have shot up beyond this but for the prudent fiscal policies of this administration and its avowed determination to service the debt.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce to you that it is such frugality that has helped us to reduce the debt stock to $28 billion. May I also stress here that the debt stock has continued to rise not because of any significant additional borrowing but simply because of the extra cost of servicing the interest accruing from what we have already borrowed. This has largely circumscribed our attempts at economic recovery. It is painful to note that from a debt overhang of $5 billion in 1985 to the Paris Club, arrears of principal and interest have brought this debt burden to what it is today. This, I must say, does not give room for any meaningful development, poverty alleviation and wealth creation.

It is on this note that I appeal to IMF not only to consider debt rescheduling for Nigeria but to also seek further opportunities for debt reduction. 

It is exactly two years and eight months in the life of this democratic government and Nigerians expect to see the dividends of democracy. This has become grossly impaired because we have had to channel our loan resources to debt servicing.

We have since realized that small and medium scale enterprises are the engine rooms of any economy. Already, the Senate has passed a bill on Small and Medium Scale Industries Development Agencies, aimed at giving a boost to small and medium scale entrepreneurship. I would like the IMF to come in strongly and assist this crucial sector through the provision of funds, materials and capacity building. May I also appeal that such training should be extended to the budgeting arm of the National Assembly and then to the states and local governments.