President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met with the Presidential Committee on the impact of the coronavirus on Nigeria’s economy, and directed the Ministry of Finance and National Planning to give priority to payment of salaries and support for vulnerable people, even as crude oil price dropped further.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who chairs the presidential committee, said this in Abuja while answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
She said the president also directed the committee to put in place measures meant to protect the poor and less privileged members of the society from unnecessary hardships as a result of the virus.
She told the State House correspondents that the president also directed the ministry to ensure that “critical infrastructure like roads, rails are protected and as much as possible, use local inputs so that the country retains value within her economy.’’
On the directives given, Mrs Ahmed said: “Well, he has directed that we should make sure that salaries are paid, make critical infrastructures like roads, rails are protected, as much as possible use local inputs so that we retain value within our economy.
“And also make sure that we take measures that protect the poor and the vulnerable.”
The minister further explained that the purpose of the meeting was to update the president on situations that are evolving on a daily basis.
“This meeting was just to brief Mr President as the situation we are in keeps evolving on a daily basis, as the health crisis gradually expands, affecting states and also the lockdown that has been ordered to help curtail expansion of the health crisis.
“The consequences of the lockdown are the additional slowing down of the economy and the measures that we need to take to mitigate the negative consequences of the slow trade and businesses,’’ she added.
The Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, who is also a member of the committee, said: “The economy is not in the best of shapes due to COVID-19 and oil prices are collapsing every day, hence the need for the President to be constantly briefed.’’
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said: “the economy is not looking as simple as everyone thought it would be.
“The global economy, naturally, like we all know at this time, will naturally suffer growth problems and may even lead to recession globally.
“So we are trying to see what we can do as a country to rescue our own situation so we don’t go the direction many will go.
“It is not going to be easy but we can only assure our people that we are on top of it and that we will resolve it and Nigerians will still be better for it.”
Other members of the committee are Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mela Kyari.