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Nigeria’s Debt Servicing Soars by 339%

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debt servicing

CEM REPORT, FINANCE | Nigeria’s battle with economic headwinds continues, with a recent report revealing a staggering increase in external debt servicing costs. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Weekly International Payments, the federal government spent a whopping $560 million servicing the country’s external debt in January 2024. This figure marks a concerning 339% increase compared to the $112 million spent in January 2023.

The escalating debt burden is not a new phenomenon for Nigeria. In 2023, the country dedicated a significant portion of its resources to servicing external debt, spending a total of $3.5 billion. This amount represents a substantial rise from the $2.4 billion spent in 2021.

2023 Debt Servicing Profile

A closer look at the 2023 data reveals a dynamic trend in monthly debt servicing costs, offering valuable insights into Nigeria’s economic landscape. The year began with a relatively manageable $112 million in January. However, a sharp increase followed in February, with the figure reaching $288 million. This momentum continued into March, with debt servicing costs escalating to $400 million.


The remaining months of 2023 witnessed a series of fluctuations. April saw a dip to $93 million before rebounding to $221 million in May. June reflected a deliberate adjustment with a lower figure of $54 million. However, July emerged as a peak month, with debt servicing reaching a concerning high of $641 million.

Read Also: Naira Strengthens Against Dollar on CBN Rate Hike and Declining Supply

The latter half of the year showcased a pattern of decline and resurgence. August witnessed a significant drop to $310 million, followed by an increase in September to $439 million. October recorded $509 million, followed by a decrease in November to $368 million. The year concluded with a notable decrease in December, reaching $65 million, likely reflecting year-end adjustments.

Looking Ahead

While the $65 million figure in December 2023 offered a temporary sigh of relief, the dramatic surge to $560 million in January 2024 paints a worrying picture. This significant increase highlights the ongoing challenge of managing Nigeria’s external debt.

Financial experts, like Ayo Teriba, a renowned economist, have expressed concern about the sustainability of this trend. “Nigeria’s debt servicing costs are becoming a major drain on our national resources,” Teriba stated in an interview. “Unless we find ways to increase revenue or renegotiate our debt obligations, this situation could seriously impede our economic growth.”

So, what can be done?

Economists propose a multi-pronged approach. One crucial step involves diversifying the Nigerian economy away from its dependence on oil exports. This will create a more sustainable revenue stream and lessen the country’s vulnerability to fluctuations in global oil prices.

Additionally, exploring debt restructuring options could ease the immediate pressure. Negotiating with creditors for lower interest rates or extended repayment periods could provide some financial breathing room.

Furthermore, prioritizing investments in infrastructure and job creation is essential. A robust infrastructure network and a skilled workforce are fundamental for attracting foreign investment and stimulating domestic economic activity. Both factors can contribute to increased government revenue, making debt servicing less burdensome.

Nigeria’s battle with its external debt presents a critical challenge. The recent surge in debt servicing costs necessitates immediate action. By implementing a combination of diversification strategies, potential debt restructuring, and targeted investments, Nigeria can chart a course towards a more stable and prosperous future.

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