An aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Reno Omokri, has criticized the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to increase Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) for ministers.
Mr Omokri also made a number of claims on Nigeria’s debt and funding of the 2023 budget.
Verdict: Daily Trust fact-checked some of the claims by Omokri and found some to be true while others were false.
Full Text: On September 3 2002, Omokri on his Twitter handle @renoomokri said: “How can Buhari increase ministers’ allowances at this time? Next year’s budget will be funded by borrowings. We now owe almost N50 trillion. ASUU is on strike. Government is broke. And this is when Buhari decides to do this? Buhari’s regime needs another #EndSARS”
CLAIM 1: Buhari increases DTA for ministers
Verification: Daily Trust confirmed that President Buhari on September 2, 2022, approved an upward review of Duty Tour Allowances (DTAs) for ministers, permanent secretaries and federal civil servants on levels one to 17.
The approval was conveyed in a circular dated August 31 by the chairman of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta.
According to the circular, the new DTA takes effect from September.
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has approved the upward review of duty tour allowances applicable to Permanent Secretary/Equivalent from N20,000 to N70,000, and to minister/SGF/HCSF/Equivalent from N35,000 to N80,000,” the chairman said.
While other civil servants from Grade level 01-17 DTA has the range of N10,000 to N37,500.
Conclusion: Daily Trust verified and confirmed that the DTA claim by Mr Omokri is true
Claim 2: Next year’s budget will be funded by borrowing
While appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Finance to defend the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the federal government was proposing an aggregate expenditure of N19.76 trillion for the 2023 financial year, which represents a 15.37 per cent increase from the amount earmarked in the 2022 budget.
Daily Trust notes the minister, however, alluded to the fact that the budget has a projected deficit of N11.30 trillion, which means that Nigeria can only raise about N8.46 trillion to fund the budget while the bigger chunk of the money will come from borrowing.
She also said the government’s budget deficit is expected to exceed N12.42 trillion if it should keep petroleum subsidy for the entire 2023 fiscal cycle.
According to the minister, government is proposing to spend only N3.36 trillion for petrol subsidy in 2023 based on the 18-month extension announced in early 2022.
Mrs Ahmed said the federal government was projecting total revenue of N8.46 trillion, out of which N1.9 trillion is expected to come from oil-related sources while the remaining is from non-oil sources.
Subsequently, although the federal government plans to borrow N11.03 trillion to fund the 2023 budget, it is also projecting N8.46 trillion in revenue to fund other items in the budget.
Conclusion: Checks by Daily Trust show that although funding for the 2023 budget will largely come from borrowing, a reasonable amount to fund the budget is also expected to come from government revenues as stated by the finance minister. As such, the claim by Mr Omokri that the entire funding for the 2023 budget will come from borrowing is False.
Claim 3. Nigeria now owes almost N50 trillion
Checks by Daily Trust show that Nigeria’s debt profile as of March 31, 2022, was N41.6 trillion, according to the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms Patience Oniha.
Ms Oniha stated this while appearing before lawmakers on the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Policy Paper (FSP) recently.
She explained that the federal government accounts for 85% of the total debt stock, while the state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) account for the remaining 15 per cent.
She said the debt rose from N32.9 trillion in December 2020 to N39.6 trillion in December 2021 and to N41.6 trillion in March 2022.
“As at December 2020, the debt stock of Nigeria, which includes the federal government, state governments and the Federal Capital Territory, was N32.92 trillion. By December 2021, it was N39.556 trillion. As of March this year, it was N41.6 trillion,” Ms Oniha stated.
Consequently, with Nigeria’s debt at N41.6 trillion, the margin of error between the actual debt and N50 trillion as claimed by Mr Omokri is too large to align with.
Conclusion: Following verification by Daily Trust, Nigeria’s debt stands at N41.6 trillion and not N50 trillion. Thus, the claim by Mr Omokri is false as the margin of error which is almost N9 trillion is too large.