BY Musa Ilallah
It is not in doubt that Coronavirus, aka COVID 19 has ravaged all parts of the world. North, South, East and West and are daily reporting incidents of patients afflicted by the disease with some thousands recovering whiles others dying during treatment. The World Health Organisation, WHO had since described the situation as a ‘pandemic’.
It is similarly also not in doubt that the havoc the disease has caused the global economy has gone far and near. Crude oil price has gone down to as low as 25 US dollars per barrel from 60 US dollars in the last few weeks. Tourism, including business, economic, educational and religious travels has almost been brought to its knees.
In serious consideration of the multiplier effects on Nigeria’s economy brought about by Coronavirus, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari took strategic measures to proactively tackle the consequences of the pandemic and mitigate its impact on Nigerians and Nigeria.
Firstly, he granted audience to the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, PEAC led by Professor Doyin Salami to advise his government on the way forward for Nigeria’s economy. PEAC offered a wide range of proposals including a cut in the country’s 2020 budget saying that the worst times for Nigeria can be avoided through ‘’hard work and scrupulous implementation of policies’’.
Similarly, in his attempt to bring succour to Nigerians, President Buhari had directed a reduction of fuel pump price from N145 per litre to N125 per litre.
He also injected an initial N50 billion to medium and small scale entrepreneurs, MSMEs and further added another N1 trillion into the economy so as to stimulate it.
This is also in addition to other measures like reduction in interest rates of loans from CBN intervention from 9% to 5%; moratorium of one year for all loans among others.
Giving a breakdown of the palliatives to cushion the effect of the pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria said it has taken some bold steps to bring succour into the lives of Nigerians. Among such measures is the offer of a credit facility of N50 billion to micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs hard hit by COVID 19 and an additional N1.1 trillion CBN intervention fund across all critical sectors of the economy to boost the Nigerian economy and further boost import substitution.
Aimed at cushioning the effect of Coronavirus, the N50 billion will pass through the hands of Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural lending, NIRSAL to the targeted beneficiaries.
The Bankers’ committee had since shown its support for CBN’s intervention to stimulate the country’s economy. The committee at a strategic meeting in Abuja recently had pledged to grant funding to 11 leading pharmaceutical companies in the country to enable them procure raw materials and equipment to boost local production in Nigeria.
According to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN and the Bankers Committee have resolved that profit would not be the primary motive but rather preserving confidence, financial stability and support for the economy as overriding objective.
The good news for public servants in particular is that despite the fall in oil price and the attendant consequences on the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian government under the leadership of President Buhari has assured workers in the public sector that no one worker will be laid off and that salaries and pensions will be paid as at when due.
Whether or not the President addresses the country on Coronavirus, as mischievously promoted by the opposition in the country; President Buhari has demonstrated full capacity in dealing with the issue since the first case was reported in Lagos.
President Buhari has assured Nigerians that protecting them is a key priority of his administration adding that federal and state governments in the country are ‘doing everything possible to contain the virus through conventional, professional and safe methods’.
To further demonstrate he is on top of the situation, President Buhari had also set up a high powered special committee to coordinate federal and states’ responses on the virus.
Headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the committee has ministers and other key stakeholders as members.
It is public knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari had since suspended his government’s plan to externally borrow $22.7 billion due to what Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed said was due to ‘current realities in the global economic landscape driven by the fallouts of Coronavirus pandemic’.
All said and done, Nigerians have no doubt in the capacity of their President to take the country out of the doldrums as they stare Nigeria in the face from the glut in the oil market and the threat of Coronavirus among others.
He has a record of tactically getting Nigeria out of recession shortly after assuming office; dealing with the threats of Ebola and Lassa fever; dealing with banditry; cattle rustling; kidnapping and other security challenges and corruption among others.
No matter what the opposition will say President Buhari deserves commendation for the steps so far taken to deal with security, economic, financial, health and other social threats on the way to achieving greatness by Nigeria.
It is therefore gratifying that President Buhari has certainly paid his dues as a patriotic leader with the country’s interest uppermost in his heart.
Ilallah wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org,
EMEKA ANYAOKU STREET, ABUJA