President Muhamamdu Buhari has directed the Presidential Committee on the impacts of Covid-19 on Nigeria’s economy to ensure that the investments and business of government continues to run without hitches.
The chairperson of the committee, who is also the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, made the disclosure to State House correspondents after the presentation of the committee’s interim report to President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Friday.
Ahmed added that the President directed the committee to consult widely and return to him next week with more details on what to do.
She said: “This committee that has been set up by the President to review the impact of Covid-19 as well as the crash of the crude oil price had a short meeting with the President in which we filed an interim report.
“The President has directed that we should consult and come back to him with an update next week.
“What we have been mandated to do is to ensure that the business of government continues to run as much as possible, normally.
“The government agencies are funded and that 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.”
According to her, the committee is working hard to ensure that government revenue is stabilised as well as making sure state governments do not starve.
Ahmed said: “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 process at a level that is averagely expected and planned for in both the federal and the national budgets.”
The minister expressed the hope that if they finished their consultations next week, they would be expecting some approvals from the President.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, who is also a member of the committee, told the correspondents that the country did not consider it necessary to impose any travel ban on visitors coming into Nigeria because of the outbreak of the Covid-19.
Emefiele said: “Regarding travel ban, I must say that at this time we don’t consider it very necessary that we should go for a travel ban.
“You all must have read and heard about the consequences of travel ban, which the United States imposed.
“It has also even dire consequences.
“However, it is not to say that we are not taking the issue very seriously.
“I can say this: we have friends and relatives who have travelled to the United States recently and they tell you that on entering the borders of the United States, that the kind of checks that they see at the airport is totally non-existent compared to the ones that we have in Nigeria.
“That is a credit for Nigeria and the Minister of Health has taken this very seriously and we are very happy about the response so far on that matter.
“It’s just good that we allow it the way it is now so we don’t create more panic in the system that now has even dire consequences for our economy.”
While reacting to the sudden rise in the cost of foreign exchange in the parallel market, Emefiele stated that the bank had taken measures to address the situation.
He said: “On the issue of the spike in the rate at the Bureau de Change segment of the market, let me say that some of you might have read about the release by the Central Bank of Nigeria yesterday (Thursday) evening and our assessment of what has happened is that this is the activities of some unscrupulous speculators who thought they could take advantage of what is happening to begin to speculate on the currency.
“We have released that circular to say there is no need to panic; anybody who has legitimate business would get foreign exchange to conduct his business.
“What are we saying?
“You want to travel?
“Which we don’t advice at this time, you will get foreign exchange to travel.
“You want to conduct business, import?
“You will get foreign exchange to conduct that import transaction.
“Whatever you need foreign exchange to do.
“So, for that reason, there is no need for you to rush.
“Everybody wants to rush to the exchange, to that door to buy foreign exchange that you don’t even require at this time, thereby leading to the spike in the price of the dollars.
“I am happy to confirm to you that as a result of this, we have also begun in collaboration with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit as well as other security agencies – EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) is also working with us to establish the people who are involved and I can tell you that we will find them because they use accounts.
“We will find them and I will like to advice those involved to desist from it.”
Emefiele reassured Nigerians that the business of governance at both federal and state levels would not crumble.