The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, revealed on Friday that about N285 billion were released in the 2020 budget for capital projects.
The minister spoke with correspondents from the State House after the Presidential Committee on the review of the impact of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy, sent his interim report to Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
The Minister addressed the press body alongside three other members of the committee – Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN)Chief Timipre Sylva, Godwin Emefiele and Group Managing Director of the National Petroleum Corporation of Nigeria (NNPC), Mele Kyari.
Ahmed also explained that Nigeria had released a total of $220 million as Nigeria contribution as part of the counterpart financing for rail projects at China EXIM Bank.
She also said the committee was mandated to ensure that government business continues despite the effect of the disease on the economy, adding that the government would prioritize its spending.
“This committee that was created by the president to review the impact of COVID-19, as well as the drop in oil prices, has now passed and had a brief meeting with the president, in which we filed an interim report while the president determined that we should consult and return to him with an update next week.
“Our mandate is to ensure that government business continues to function as normally as possible, that government agencies are also funded, but there must be ongoing investments in critical infrastructure that ensure continued growth and also focus on programs or projects that improve the employment of our people.
“We are looking for ways and means by which government revenue will be stabilized and that we can finance states through the FAAC process at a level that is generally expected and planned for the federal and national budget.
“As soon as we finish our consultations next week, we will wait for some approvals and will meet with you to inform you of the specific approvals we have been able to obtain from His Excellency the President.
“Just as on Tuesday this week, we released N285 billion to various agencies, we prioritize launches for critical infrastructure agencies. But we also made launches for education and health. Thus, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Works and Housing, Niger Delta, several ministries and agencies that have important infrastructure projects received their funds.
“Also this week, we were able to release to the Ministry of Transport the funding provided for in our budget, necessary for the important railway projects in progress, the finances of the EXIM Bank of China.
”So they are the funds that were released this week. So, in addition to the N285 billion, there are about $ 220 million that have been released this week for funding in rail projects, ”she said.
Sylva said the federal government has initiated consultations with relevant stakeholders on a possible reduction in the price of the fuel pump after the fall in oil prices.
However, he clarified that no decision was taken to reduce the price of the pump, saying the consultations were ongoing.
“We are still consulting, we are still following closely. Obviously, normally, product prices follow the price of crude oil, but we are still consulting. We will get back to you, please be patient, ”he said.
Emefiele said that the exchange rate increase that was seen in the wake of COVID-19 was the work of some people he identified as unscrupulous elements, who were taking advantage of the situation.
He, however, ensured that all necessary measures were being taken to check the activities of those behind the artificial panic, noting that there were no indices that could lead to an escalation in the FOREX market.
“On the issue of rate hikes in the Bureau de Change (BDC) segment of the market, let me say that some of you must have read about the Nigeria Central Bank launch yesterday (Thursday) night and our assessment what has happened is that these are the activities of some unscrupulous elements who thought they could take advantage of what is happening to start speculating about the currency.
“I am saying that it is speculative, because if you imagine that the manufacturing companies where we are importing our raw materials are in China, Europe or South Korea, where you need electronics, all these factories have been closed.
So, where does the demand for forex come from? Airlines have closed, people are not traveling, most have no passengers; so, where does the demand for foreign exchange come from?
“These are just the activities of some scrupulous individuals and we are determined to find them. When we find them, we will use them as scapegoats so that this type of thing does not happen again,” he said.