Zainab Ahmed
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Nigeria’s $3bn World Bank facility ‘ll be invested in power sector — Finance Minister

Kunle Akinsola
Nigeria is set to access the World Bank facility of three billion dollars, according to the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed.
Speaking in Washington DC at an interactive session with  with journalists, Ahmed, disclosed that the facility which will be in two tranches would be invested in the power sector.
“There is a proposed $1.5 to $3 billion facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria.
“And this will include the development of the transmission networks, development of the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we have now including within the electricity sector.
“So, we are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery Programme. Back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design  how this programme will be implemented.
“We have opportunity now to have a direct meeting with both leadership of the bank to tell them the plans that we have and this is how much we need from one to five years.
“So the funding could be as much as $3 billion, we are going to push for it to be provided in phases, phase one will be $1.5 billion and phase two will be another $1.5 billion,” the finance minister said on the sidelines of the ongoing IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC.
On IMF’s concern about Nigeria being heavily exposed to debts from China, Ahmed, disagreed with IMF’s position, saying it is not true.
“It is not true that we are heavily exposed to debts from China. We have a wide profolio of debts, a large proportion of it…right now our domestic debts is about 57 percent and foreign debts is the difference.
“We will continue to find different instruments to elongate the tenures of our debts. Our targets is to move the total portfolio to an average of 10 years tenure.”
Stressing:”For the loans that we have from China, there are projects specific loans. So China gives us loan to build the rail, major infrastructure such as the renovation of our airports.
“I think there is also some kind of negative message that is going out there that we are tied down to China, we are not. Rail is being built in Nigeria, is China going to take this rail out of Nigeria?
“The airports that have been renovated will soon be concessioned.
“They have given us very soft loans in terms of the fact that the rates are very low and part of the condition (everybody has their own interest) is that these projects must be implemented by companies that are Chinese and we don’t see anything wrong with that.”
The finance minister said the federal government must ensure that the Chinese company had the capacity to deliver the projects.
While attesting to their capabilities, Ahmed said the rails that are being deployed are “very high quality projects”.
“So let’s look at what is in the interest of Nigeria and not just what other people outside Nigeria are saying.”
On the closure of Nigeria’s borders with neighbouring countries, she said the move was to force member-states to commit themselves AfCFTA agreements.
Ahmed explained: “We needed to close the borders because we are not getting cooperation from our neigbouring countries.
“We have over the years committed to some alliances, bilateral agreements but our neigbours are not respecting those bilateral agreements and at this time when the president has signed Nigeria up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
 “It becomes more important for us to make sure that everybody compiles with the commitments that are made.
“The practices that are neigbours are engaged in are hurting our economy, hurting our local businesses and we have to make sure that that stops. That is the purpose for the closure of the border and not generating revenue.
“That revenues are generated is the consequence but that is not the objective. It is just to ensure compliance of the commitments that we made between ourselves and our neigbouring countries.”
Asked if there is a timeline to reopen the borders as it is hurting genuine businesses in Nigeria, she said
the timeline will be when the neigbouring countries commit to comply with the commitments that we signed.
“We hope that at some points there will be discussions at the level of presidents where we will extract some commitments from our neigbours.

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