President Buhari Mandates Covid-19/Oil Price Crash Committee
.As Finance Minister Discloses Releases For Critical Infrastructures
The Committee, headed by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed that was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to review the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as the crash of crude oil price yesterday had a short meeting with him in which it filed an interim report.
The President had directed that it should consult and come back to him with an update next week.
According to Ahmed, “What we have been mandated to do is to ensure that the business of government continues to run normally as much as possible, that government agencies are funded. But, there must be continuous investments in critical infrastructure that would ensure continuous growth and also concentrate on programmes and projects that will enhance employment of our people.”
“We are looking at ways and means in which the revenue of government will be stabilised and that we are able to fund the states through the
Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) process at a level that is averagely expected, and planned for both the federal as well as the national budget,” she stated.
Addressing the committee members, the Honourable Minister further said: “So, as we finish our consultations next week, we will be expecting some approvals and then we will be meeting with you to inform you of the specific approvals that we have been able to obtain from His Excellency the President.”
Shortly after the committee meeting, she fielded questions from journalists on how much so far has been released for capital projects on the 2020 budget, saying that as at Tuesday this week, “we have released N285 billion to a number of agencies, we prioritise the releases to the critical infrastructure agencies. But we have also made the releases for education as well as health. So, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Works and Housing, Niger Delta, a number of ministries and agencies that have important infrastructure projects have got their funds.”
Concerning the counterpart funding, she disclosed: “Also this week, we have been able to release to the Ministry of Transportation the counterpart funding provided for in our budget. That is required for the important railway projects that are currently ongoing. The finances are from the China EXIM Bank. So, they are the funds that have been released this week. Therefore, in addition to the N285 billion, there is up to about $220 million that has been released this week for counterpart funding for railway projects.”
Speaking on whether Nigeria is looking at banning flights, she said: “That is a decision that would be normally taken by the medical team, if they feel Nigeria’s risk will be too escalated if flights are banned. As far as I know, the assessment of the Nigerian medical team is not yet available, and as far as I know, the international community has been commending the efforts of the Nigerian medical team in trying to protect Nigerians from being infected with this disease.”
In terms of the volume of trading, she also noted: “Yes, China is one of our largest trading partners. So even though COVID-19 is just one of the two cases that have been imported here, we feel the impact in the economy because of the trade volume.
“But, we have already seen China beginning to go back to work. Of course, there is a lag period for what has happened; already the crude oil period has moved from $30 per barrel to $36 per barrel. So, there will be a recovering. But, for us, in everything, when something crashes, the recovery is not as fast as the recovery itself.
“So, we will manage the economy by prioritising what we do during the period that there will be slow activities, so that when things pick up, everything will go back to normal.”
Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi
SA Media & Communications
To the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning
13th March, 2020