In this post we will be starting a short series of discussions on the one-stop-shop Debt Management Office. The Debt Management Office is the agency of the federal government of Nigeria that manages the country ‘massive’ debts pile. The topic has become pertinent because in recent years Nigeria’s debts have been on the rise prompting some of us to think that the gains of the debt ‘freedom’ under the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime is being rolled back. So we have set out to inform on what makes up the Debt Management Office; its internal structure; its staff; its functions; etc.

Realising the important role debt management plays in prudent economic management, Nigeria established the Debt Management Office (“DMO” or “the Office”) in the year 2000 AD (precisely 4th October) to centrally coordinate the management of Nigeria’s debt, which was hitherto being done by a myriad of establishments in an uncoordinated fashion. Mostly between several departments in the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Though the DMO was established in 2000, the enabling statute institutionalising the Office was passed in 2003.[1] The DMO Act, in sum, is made up eight parts and thirty-four sections.
The DMO has all the incidents of a corporate body. In that, it has perpetual succession, a common seal, it can acquire, hold and dispose of property whether moveable or immovable, it can sue and be sued in its corporate name.
The Internal Structure of the DMO
The DMO currently operates the front, middle and back offices model in its administrative structure.
The Office is made up of the Supervisory Board, Director General and six departments. It also has a management team comprising of the Director General and the heads of the various departments. The Act does not however create any departments for the DMO but leaves that to be dealt with administratively.
The Supervisory Board
The Supervisory Board (“the Board”) is highest policy making organ of the DMO. Its position is underlined by the calibre of persons making up its membership. It is made up of several ex-officio members. These are the Vice-President of the country who is the chairman of the Board; the Federal Minister of Finance who is the Vice-Chairman; the Attorney-General of the Federation (Minister of Justice); the Chief Economic Adviser to the President; the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; the Accountant-General of the Federation; and the Director General (“DG”) of the Office who serves as the Secretary of the Board.
Given the very crucial role of the capital market to internal borrowing, the Director-General of Securities and Exchange Commission ought to be a member of the Board.
Section 8 of the DMO Act prescribes the functions of the Board to include; approving policies, strategies and procedures to be adopted by the Office for the achievement of its objectives; reviewing from time to time, the economic and political impact of domestic and external debt management strategies. This is important because as well as the economic side to debt management, there is the political twist to it. Debt servicing usually raise political sticking points in the proposals for annual budgets.
The Board also has the duty of recommending for approval of the President members of the Debt Conversion Committee.[2]
Under Section 33 of the DMO Act, the Board is empowered to make regulations for the operation of the Act. Precisely, it is to issue guidelines, with the approval of the Minister of Finance, for obtaining external loans by the Federal Government or any of its agencies; for guarantees with regard to, external loans by a State Government or any of its agencies; for lending to public bodies; and on any other matter as the Board may deem fit in each circumstance.
The Director General of the DMO[3]
The Office is headed by the Director General (DG) who is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Board. The current DG of the DMO is Dr. Abraham Nwankwo who was appointed in 2007. The DG holds office for five years and can be re-appointed for another five and no more. He shall not be below the rank of a Permanent Secretary in the Civil Service. The Act did not stipulate whether he should have cognate experience in relevant fields but that can be implied from the general practice for such positions. Although I admit that it would have created more certainty if this was out rightly stated. Of course, it would be counterproductive if the President just appoints any civil servant above the rank of Permanent Secretary. The DG would have to be knowledgeable in financial systems and/or debt management and regulation.
That’s the much we can take in this post. Join us in the next post on this site when he will be looking to round up the discussion. Thank you.

[1] Debt Management Office (Establishment, etc.) Act No. 18 of 2003. Hereafter the DMO Act or the Act.
[2] See Section 8 (d) of the Act.
The Debt Conversion Committee is the body responsible for overseeing the debt conversion programme of the Federal Government. It make up is quite is similar to the membership of the DMO Supervisory Board except that the Vice President and the Accountant General of the Federation are not members while the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is its Chairman. Its concomitant nature with the Supervisory Board and its similarity of function with the DMO called into question the need for the continued existence of the Committee.
[3] See generallyy Section 9 of the Act.

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