We’re interested in solutions that’ll help propel Nigerians to next level — Buhari…C’ttee to assess impact of Coronavirus on 2020 budget

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday set up a committee to assess the impact of the ravaging coronavirus on the economy, especially the 2020.budget.

The committee is saddled with the responsibility of revisiting the crude oil benchmark price of $53 per barrel used to prepare the 2020 budget.

The 2020 budget was predicated on crude oil bench of $57 per barrel and daily production capacity of 2.1 million barrels per day but there is a crash of crude oil price in the international market from $53 per barrel last week to $35 per barrel as at yesterday.

Briefing State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the meeting was as a result of the Coronavirus and its effect on the nation’s economy.

Members of the committee chaired by the Finance Minister are the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba.

Others are Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Meles Kyari.

She said: “We just met with the President to discuss with him on the matter of the impact of the coronavirus on our economy. Mr. President has formed us into a committee, with the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, the Central Bank Governor, GMD NNPC and myself as members.

“Our mandate is to make a very quick assessment of the impact of this coronavirus on the economy, especially as it effects crude oil price.’’

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She said the committee was expected to submit its report today or at tomorrow’s Federal Executive Council, meeting.

Continuing, the minister said: “We will be writing a report and brief Mr. President tomorrow (today) or Wednesday morning. After that, we will also have more substantial information for the press.

“It is very clear that we will have to revisit crude oil benchmark price that we have of $57 per barrel. We have to revisit it and lower the price. Where it will be lowered is the subject of this committee.

“What the impact will be is that there will be reduced revenue that will cut the size of the budget. The quantum of the cut is what we are supposed to assess as a committee.

‘’This is just an initial update to inform you on the directives we have and subsequently, we will be sending a report to the President, after which we will be briefing the press on the actions that government will be taking.”

On whether Nigeria would negotiate with Russia and other non-OPEC members to cut the oil production output, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said the country was not in the position to do that.

“On the issue of engaging Russia, we as a member of OPEC are not in a position to take that engagement on our own unilaterally. There was a disagreement between OPEC and OPEC+, it’s not just Russia, but the biggest producers within OPEC and OPEC+ are Saudi Arabia and Russia.

“We believe that in the coming days when all of us would have begun to see effect of the reduction of prices, OPEC and OPEC+ might need to meet again and reconsider our positions.

“Meanwhile, we expect also that a lot of discussions are going on at the level of Saudi Arabia and Russia, but as Nigeria, we are not in a position to begin to engage members on this matter,’’ she added.

Recall that the Minister of Finance had after the FEC, meeting, last Wednesday, told State House correspondents that the outbreak of the disease might definitely affect the economy and make government review the 2020 budget.

She had, however, said that oil output also increased to about   2.1 million barrels per day, adding that this could help to cushion the effect on the budget benchmark.

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