John Ameh, Abuja
Governors of the 36 states are pushing for the full reopening of the Nigerian economy, agreeing to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, to achieve it soon.
This was part of the decisions of the National Economic Council meeting, which was held on Thursday.
The virtual meeting was chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governors resolved to set up a NEC committee to sit with the PTF and work out the modalities for reopening the economy.
According to the Governor of Jigawa State, Mr Mohammed Badaru-Abubakar, who addressed State House correspondents on the outcome of the NEC meeting, the committee is chaired by the Governor of Delta State, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa.
Six other governors, those of Ekiti (Kayode Fayemi); Lagos (Babajide Sanwo-Olu); Anambra (Willie Obiano); Kano (Abdullahi Ganduje); Bauchi (Adamu Mohammed); and Plateau (Simon Lalong), are members. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr Mohammed Bello, is also a member.
“On COVID-19, Council set up a NEC committee to work with PTF to work out the modalities for the reopening of the national economy.
“The committee is composed of governors of Ekiti, Lagos, Anambra, Kano, Bauchi, Plateau and FCT minister as members. Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, chairs the committee,” he stated.
This came as the Federal Government said a $1.5bn World Bank stimulus package secured for the states as part of measures to cushion the effects of COVID-19, would have been disbursed to them by September.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who spoke on the package, said states would receive between N150bn and N200bn.
She stated that the bank, which had said that the impact of COVID -19, could push the economy into another recession, earlier rolled out a N500bn support to the Federal Government to help in stabilising the economy.
The minister added, “The World Bank package has also got a proposal of $1.5bn for the states and this package will be dedicated to the states. And it will be a programme for results which the states are already used to implementing.
“So, the immediate fiscal relief for the states will include the acceleration of an existing programme to enable disbursement by end of September. So, the proposed $1.5bn plan would have been disbursed to the states by the end of September.
“We are looking at an average of between N150bn to N200bn, based on the plan to the 36 states. These are states that have already made some particular commitments and achievements so that they will be able to get immediate disbursements of parts of these funds.”
On the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, Ahmed stated that the crash in the price of crude oil had already recorded losses in accruable revenue into the Federation Account.
For instance, she said net oil and gas revenue fell to N940.91bn in the first quarter of this year.
“This represented a shortfall of N125. 52bn or 31per cent of the amount that was supposed to have been realised by the end of that first quarter,” the minister added.
She spoke further, “Forty per cent of the population in Nigeria today is classified as poor. The crisis (COVID-19) will only multiply this misery. The economic growth in Nigeria, that is the GDP, could in the worst case scenario, contract by as much as 8.94 per cent in 2020. But in the best case, which is the case we are working on, it could be a contraction of 4.4 per cent, if there is no fiscal stimulus.
“But with the fiscal stimulus plan that we are working on, this contraction can be mitigated and we might end up with a negative 0.59 per cent.”
On the health implications, Ahmed said facilities to take care of infected persons were in short supplies and expensive to procure at a time there were fears that total cases might climb to 300,000 in the months ahead.
The minister explained that this was the reason Buhari set up the Presidential Economic Sustainability Committee, the PTF and the Crisis Management Committee to work together to find ways to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria, going forward.