… Says ESP will lead to Nigeria’s early exit from recession
…Rules out plan to withdraw 2021 budget proposal
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
MINISTER of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, Wednesday said that the report of the Presidential Committee on reopening Nigerian land borders was ready and would soon be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Dr. Ahmed, who is Chairman of the committee disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, presided over by President Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister also said that the recent recession in the country will not last long because of the Federal Government Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP, in place.
This is as she has said that there was no plan to retrieve the 2021 budget proposal from the National Assembly or to reverse it.
Recall that President Buhari had last year August approved the shutdown of Nigeria’s land borders on account of the proliferation of illegal importation of drugs, small arms and agricultural products into the country from neighbouring West African countries.
But the Minister explained that the committee, which was set up by the President to advise him on the next line of action on the border closure development, had done an assessment of the gains of the closure and would present its report to the President, who will disclose the next line of action.
According to her, “Mr President has set up a committee that I chair, alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other ministers, including Interior, Customs, Immigration, the security services, to review and advise him on the issue of border closure.
“The committee has just completed its work and we’ll be submitting our report, I’ve signed my copy, I gave everybody to sign between today and tomorrow so that we submit the report to Mr President.”
On the plan to save the economy from recession, the Minister said the administration hopes to use the Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP, to retrieve the economy from the current situation.
She said that the government already anticipated the current recession and had designed the ESP to help fast-track exit from the anticipated economic woe, adding that so far the plan is still very much on track and that the economy is expected to come out of recession in the first quarter of 2021.
She said, “The steps that were taken was a vigorous implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan. You will recall that the ESP was designed to be a 12 months plan, to act as a bridge between the ERGP and its successor plan, but also it was designed specifically to help us quickly exit recession, which we had projected was going to happen.
“So the ESP implementation is really on course, it’s focused and also the implementation of the 2020 Budget is really on course and is very focused. We have been able to release a large volume of capital funding into ministries, departments and agencies, enabling a lot of public works going on simultaneously all over the country.
“So how we will maintain this is to make sure we continue to implement the ESP as it is planned. It will help us exit recession, it will help us reset back on the path of growth and on a road that is sustainable.”
Asked if there were plans to withdraw and rework the 2021 Budget proposal which was with the National Assembly in view of the recent announcement of the contraction of the economy, the Minister said: “we are not planning to retrieve the budget or to reverse the budget beyond the work of appropriation that the National Assembly is currently doing in consultation with us.”.l
On concerns in some quarters overpayment of federal workers’ salaries, the Minister said “there’s no issue with federal workers’ salary. We have paid salaries for November and we shall pay salaries for December so there’s no issue at all with federal workers’ salary.
“If you hear about any issue, it is for agencies whose budgets funding on the GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System) system was exhausted and we are about to make an adjustment to them.
“When we were doing the 2020 Budget, we made estimates of the consequential adjustment that is required as a result of the minimum wage and we had sent the budget before a decision and approval was taken on the consequential adjustment, so it is anticipated that some agencies might run short and we made a block provision in the service-wide vote of the budget.
“So when we have such a situation, what we simply do is remove fund from the service-wide vote to the agency so that they pay their budget, so there’s no problem of payment of salaries at all.”