By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said that the shocks of the ravaging (COVID-19) coronavirus pandemic on Nigeria especially on its economy were multiple.
Buhari said that the COVID-19 has caused a sharp decline in international oil prices which has negatively impacted revenues and growth, worsened external and domestic positions, and further increased banking sector vulnerabilities, resulting in enormous human and economic toll on the country.
President Buhari also renewed the appeal for debt cancellation for African counties and an urgent provision of funds to curb the dreaded virus.
Speaking in a virtual meeting tagged ”High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond”, convened by Canada, Jamaica, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President said global solidarity was the hope for humanity.
He called on developed countries and international financial institutions to cancel the debts of ”needy countries” especially in Africa to enable them to reverse the devastations of COVID-19 to the human race.
Buhari urged major nations to provide free additional resources through an international consensus to assist poor countries fight the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina said that the Nigerian leader cautioned major nations against adopting a ”me first” and ”every man for himself” attitude, warning that the consequences for all of us in the 21st century can only be imagined.
According to him, ”The world has changed through COVID-19 and so must the global financing architecture for development financing and the response to the current pandemic. There is an urgent need for weak and needy countries especially those of Africa, to receive a fresh reprieve.
”This is a historic plague affecting every corner of the globe. In the circumstances, the response needed must be global, unconditional, comprehensive, and rapid.
“Debts must be forgiven and cancelled. Free additional resources are needed urgently through an international consensus to enable poor countries to work to reverse the devastations of COVID-19 to the human race.
”Rising now and standing together in true global solidarity to my mind is the only hope for humanity, the best approach to safeguarding the 2030 SDGs and the only way we can build back for more resilient economies and societies. ”
The President also used the occasion to apprise the international community on the devastating impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the health sector, and efforts by his government to mitigate the crisis.
He said, ”For Nigeria, the shocks are multiple, including the sharp decline in international oil prices which has negatively impacted revenues and growth, worsened external and domestic positions, and further increased banking sector vulnerabilities, resulting in enormous human and economic toll on the country.
”We have been proactive in implementing a number of strong measures, including fiscal, monetary and structural policies, and a multi-front response to the health crisis created by COVID-19 which captures all tiers of Government as well as the private sector.
”Our objective is to revert to the government’s planned medium-term fiscal consolidation path once the crisis is over. Our strategy for macroeconomic stability is anchored on our home-grown Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP.”
President Buhari further said Nigeria had revised its 2020 budget downwards and shifted emphasis to response activities towards bridging the critical gaps in the health infrastructures to strengthen national response to COVID-19 and other diseases.
On demographics and health, the President told the meeting that with an estimated population of 200 million and a large segment of economically vulnerable population, Nigeria had a high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
”This level of disease burden, coupled with poverty level and Nigeria’s weak system; the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly jeopardizing and reversing the gains already made by the Government and its partners including in such other areas as outbreaks of Lassa and yellow fevers and measles,’’ he said.
Nigeria recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on 27th February 2020. Since then, the country has seen a steady increase in the number of cases, with 8,733 confirmed cases, out of which 2,501 have been discharged and 254 deaths reported across 35 states as at 27 May 2020.
More than 50 Heads of State and Government as well as heads of international organisations participated in the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.