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Published On: Tue, Mar 10th, 2020

Buhari sets up Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus

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  • FG to cut $57 oil benchmark, N9tr 2020 budget
  • As Nigeria records 2nd confirmed case

By Egena Sunday Ode and Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin

As the health authorities announced the discovery of a second case of Coronavirus in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has established a Presidential Task Force for the control of the deadly disease otherwise known as COVID-19.
A statement by the Presidency Spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Monday said the President’s action was sequel to the current global outbreak of the novel Coronavirus and its potential of causing significant disruption to health services in the country as well as impacting negatively on the economy.
“This action is in preparation for the unlikely but probable major outbreak of the disease in the country which will require a multi-sectoral inter-governmental approach as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) similar to that adopted for the HIV epidemic in the last two decades,” Shehu noted in the statement.
Membership of the start and finish task group which would be expected to deliver within a maximum period of six months, comprises Mr. Boss Mustapha (SGF) – Chair; Dr. Sani Aliyu – National Coordinator; Hon. Minister of Health and Hon. Minister of Interior.
Others are: Hon. Minister of Aviation, Hon. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Service, Hon. Minister of Education, Hon. Minister of Information and Culture,
Hon. Minister of Environment, Director-General, State Services, Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and WHO Country Representative.
And in response to the falling oil prices at the International market owing to the ravaging Coronavirus, the Federal Government has announced its readiness to cut down oil benchmark as well as the current national budget.
A five-man committee has been set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to that effect.
The 2020 nine trillion naira budget is predicated on an oil benchmark of $57 per barrel.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this after a meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja Monday heads the committee.
Other members of the panel are Minister of State (Petroleum) Timipre Sylva; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele; Group General Manager of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari and the Minister of State (Budget and National Planning), Clement Agba.
According to Ahmed, the committee’s mandate is to do a quick examination of the coronavirus on the economy with respect to its effects on the crude oil price.
She said all things considered, it would be imperative to reduce the oil benchmark of $57 per barrel, adding that the overall size of the budget would also be necessarily cut down as revenue flow would be affected.
She said: “We just met with the President to discuss the matter of the impact of the Coronavirus on our economy and Mr President has formed us into a committee, with the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, the Central Bank Governor, the GMD NNPC and myself as members.
“Our mandate is to make a quick assessment of the impact of this Coronavirus on the economy, especially as it affects the crude oil price. We will be writing a report and brief Mr President tomorrow or Wednesday morning and after that we’ll also have more substantial information for the press.
“But it is very clear that we will have to revisit the 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 to is the subject of the work of this Committee.
“What the impact will be on that is that there will be reduced revenue to the budget and it will mean cutting 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 that 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 suggestions that Nigeria was in talks with Russia and Saudi Arabia with a view to persuading them to cut down on oil production so as to force the prices up, Sylva said such an engagement was beyond the country as an individual member of OPEC.
Sylva said: “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.”
The Federal Government had hinted last week after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that it was considering a review of the budget in view of the falling oil prices at the International market which is a Coronavirus: FG set to slice $57 oil benchmark, budget
The federal government had earlier yesterday recorded another case of Coronavirus in Nigeria making it a total of two in the Country.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire disclosed this in Benin during a press briefing with newsmen at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, (UBTH).
Dr. Ehanire said the new case was the person who had a contact with the Italian man, the index patient.
“On the 8th of March, scientists confirmed the presence of Coronavirus in one of the contacts.
“It is my duty to announce a new case of the Coronavirus disease in Nigeria and the newly confirmed case is an Ogun State contact of the index case but he has no significant clinical symptoms.
“It brings the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria today to two.
“Since the beginning of the outbreak in China and its subsequent spread to other countries, one of the importance response strategies at the containment stage, has been to identify all contacts, ensure their strict isolation, and follow up the way you check for every symptom of the disease”, he said.
The Health Minister said all contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos will remain in isolation and testing will be carried out on those not yet tested including some in other States.
He said the federal ministry of health and Lagos and Ogun State ministries of health assure citizens of their commitment to do all needed to control spread of the outbreak.
He also said since the first case was confirmed in Nigeria on the 27th of February 2020, the National Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Abuja, continues to work closely with Lagos and Ogun State EOCs to coordinate response activities.
He said the federal government has committed about N1 billion in fighting the course and have also gotten promises of cash donations from private individuals and organizations.
“The government of Nigeria has committed about N1 billion to this response and every amount that was requested by NCDC has been granted by the President with no delay at all.
“The money is available and is being used and utilised.
“We also have promises of donations from several of organizations, private sectors and we got a letter the other day that we can apply for the global funds that has been allocated to Nigeria for this response”, he said.
He warned against spreading misinformation to cause fear and panic as the federal ministry of health and NCDC will continue to provide prompt and reliable updates and initiate all measures required to protect the citizens of the Country.

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