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Firms, individuals refuse to pay N5.2tn debts – Minister

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the Federal Government was owed approximately N5.2 trillion in debts.  Ahmed, who stated this during a two-day sensitisation workshop on Project Lighthouse organised for ICT and account staff in federal ministries, departments, and agencies across the North-Central zone in Minna on Thursday, said the debt was owed by over 5,000 companies and individuals.

The Minister, who was represented by the Director of Special Projects in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Victor Omata, said that these debts cut across 19 ministries, departments and agencies.

She stated that companies and individuals owing the Federal Government agencies had refused to honour their obligations.

She cited the lack of visibility of these transactions, poor information sharing, and enforcement as reasons for revenue loopholes.

“The ministry, through the consolidation efforts of the Debt Analytics and Reporting Application, has been able to aggregate monumental debts of approximately N5.2 trillion. These debts came to the spotlight from data aggregated from over 5,000+ debtors across 10 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).  The debt aggregation effort is still ongoing.

  “These debts are in the form of debt liabilities to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); refunds to the government by companies who failed to deliver on projects for which payment had been effected, unpaid credit facilities granted to both corporate entities and individuals by the Bank of Industry (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture (BOA); judgment debt in favor of Government, debts owed Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) by Insurance Companies among others.” He stated that the Project Lighthouse initiative had enabled the aggregation of relevant economic and financial information from multiple agencies that hitherto did not share data.

“An important part of our policies and strategies is to leverage big data technology to help block revenue loopholes, recover debts, identify new revenue opportunities, optimize existing revenue streams, especially non-oil revenue as well as improve fiscal transparency”, he stated.

He called on government MDAs to cooperate and provide quality and relevant debt-related information to populate the platform, saying that it would improve the economic base of the country.

The Secretary to the Niger state Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Matane, said that Project Lighthouse would cut excesses and retrieve the debts owed, which would help the government to use the money for other projects .From the Punch

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