COVID-19: National Assembly, Executive agree on 2020 budget review

*Slashes revenue projections for Customs, others

Leadership of National Assembly and the Executive arm of government, yesterday met on the proposed review of the 2020 budget as well as the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF and the Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP passed late last year by the federal legislature.

The meeting, which lasted almost four hours, according to information made available to newsmen in Abuja was sequel to the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the Nigerian economy.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the meeting, said that an immediate review of the 2020 budget and MTEF has become imperative, particularly against the backdrop of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global economy.

“If we have to review the budget itself, we have to consider the MTEF/FSP. Even in sickness, we need government to provide services.

“The impact of COVID-19 is well known to all of us in terms of health and the economy. Here, we will be talking of revenues that we estimated to fund the budget 2020.

“Because the oil price has gone so low due to the impact of COVID-19, the Minister of State should be able to tell us where we will be in the next six months or so.

“We should have concepts that can deliver fast and are sustainable. Anything that we do that cannot provide succor and relief to our people will lead to catastrophe,” Lawan warned.

Also speaking, speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said the meeting was very timely.

“Taking a cursory look at some of the papers (presentations), I think this meeting is actually very timely and very important because we live in very unusual time and it’s time we start thinking outside the box to see how we can stabilise our economy and the direction it’s going to take,” he said.

In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed explained that “prior to COVID-19 and oil price decline, the Nigerian economy was already fragile and vulnerable.”

According to her, due to the global economic downturn precipitated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, international oil prices plunged as low as $22 (USD) per barrel on the international market.

She added that the impact of the pandemic which resulted in international crisis created a disruption in travel and trade, and put “increasing pressure on the naira and foreign reserves as the crude oil sales receipts decline and the country’s micro-economic outlook worsens.”

Ahmed said that in view of Nigeria’s economic realities, the Crisis Management Committee constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in response to the COVID-19 and Oil Price Decline Crisis expressed concern that “the decline in international oil prices or domestic production may be magnified if a severe outbreak of the pandemic occurs in Nigeria.”

Accordingly, the minister proposed a review of the 2020 budget using a US$30 per barrel price benchmark as against USD$57 initially passed in December by the National Assembly, to prepare for the worst case scenario, as well as insulate the Nigeria economy against any form of unexpected crisis.

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