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As New Director General Takes Over at DMO

Stories by Donald Tseen

After completing his two terms in office, Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO) Dr. Abraham Nwankwo has handed over the mantle of leadership to his successor, Mrs. Patience Oniha, on whose shoulders, lies the onerous task to continue with crucial functions of the Office.
The DMO has assumed a central role among the institutions driving the economic reform agenda of the   Buhari administration. The Agency has not only initiated a new debt management outline which has resulted into increase in external borrowing to keep the domestic market running, it has also introduced some ground-breaking debt instruments to help government in funding its rising budget deficits.
The DMO under out- going DG effectively reviewed the ratio of domestic and external borrowings from 84:16 to 60:40. Under his leadership also, the DMO introduced the first ever Federal Government Savings Bond, which allowed all revenue earners in the country become group of actors in Nigeria’s Capital Market. This
has promoted the market and is on the verge of establishing a new way of life of institutional savings among Nigerians.
The DMO also introduced the Diaspora relationship and the first-ever registration of Nigeria to access the Unites States of America (USA) financial market under her stringent Securities and Exchange Commission rules and regulations.
Mrs Patience Oniha, who is taking took over from Dr. Abraham Nwankwo   is coming to a familiar ground having recently retired as a director  and Head of the Efficiency Unit of the Ministry of Finance established in November 2015. The Unit is charged with reviewing the Expenditure profile and pattern of the Federal Government and working with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to introduce well-organized processes and procedures that will ensure that Government’s revenues are deployed in an efficient manner that translates to Value for Money and Savings to Government.
This initiative will complement on-going efforts by the Government to diversify its revenue sources. The Efficiency Unit executes its mandate, among others, by reviewing Government’s spending pattern using data from the Budget Implementation Report and other sources. It then works strongly with the MDAs to review work and procurement processes for specific Expenditure lines and agree to changes to decrease wastages. Oniha has been the one heading the unit in the ministry of finance that is saddled with promoting a change in the culture of public spending by MDAs to one of prudence and savings.
Against this background therefore, there is no doubt that the new Director General will hit the ground running.  She was part of the success story of story of the DMO in the past 10 years. During that period, DMO was able to come out successful in its firsts operational efforts to manage the country’s debt profile. These include the establishment of 37 sub-national Debt Management Departments for the 36 states and the FCT, culminating in the construction of the first-ever comprehensive and reliable Domestic Debt Database for all the states and the FCT in 2012; putting in place Primary Dealing-Market Making (PDMM) system for the FGN Bonds, enabling two-way quotes in the trading of FGN Bonds and, therefore, the introduction of a vibrant and liquid Secondary Market for FGN Bonds and listing of FGN Bonds on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Nigeria’s Sovereign Bond was also included in Global Market Indices, at this period and the JP Morgan Index and the Barclays Capital Index. The achievements also include issuing of Nigeria’s Eurobond in the International Capital Market and its listing and trading on the London Stock Exchange; issuing of Nigeria’s Sovereign Retail Bonds, the FGN Savings Bond and its listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and on the FMDQ OTC Exchange. Others are issuing of Nigeria’s Diaspora Bond and the first-ever registration of Nigeria to access the Unites States financial market under the stringent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules and regulations; designing and implementing Nigeria’s National Debt Management Framework; Introducing the soon to be launched first-ever Nigeria’s Sovereign Non-Interest Bearing Bond: the Sukuk as well as exporting of Public Debt Management services through capacity-building support to other African countries, including the Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.
While Oniha was part of the successes under Dr. Nwankwo, she is expected to consolidate on these achievements and even extend the frontiers. The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, said the government seeks to borrow about N2.32 trillion to finance the N7.29 trillion 2017 budget, which has now been raised to N7.44trillion by the National Assembly. With every change of leadership, it is expected that the new executives will introduce its own style and momentum. For Oniha, there is excitement among stakeholders, including staff of the DMO that she is coming with a lot of energy, knowledgeable capacity and a team spirit that is required for success in debt management. But in addition to what she’s bringing to the table, Oniha must ensure public buy-in to the activities of her office and maintain public image of the DMO as an engine room of economic reform and growth. The Buhari administration needs to be seen as working extremely hard to completely pull the country out of recession and put it on a path of sustainable economic growth. The administration is doing many innovative things and tackling challenges in a holistic manner. But very few of these achievements are in the public glare. There is economic pressure in the land and this is the time that all agencies of government cannot afford to take their eyes away from the public. It is what is in the public space that can inspire and motivate the people, not what is hidden in government confidential memoranda. Oniha was able to identify all these, the reason  why she was chosen to head the DMO.

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