CORONAVIRUS: FG TO REVIEW BUDGET AS OIL PRICE PLUNGES
The Federal Government has announced plans to review the 2020 budget as crude oil revenue comes under pressure from the effects of the raging coronavirus infection globally. The Minister of Finance/Budget Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said on Wednesday that the government was worried about the drop in oil revenue and would soon start a mid-term review of the budget to determine the way forward.
“We are concerned about the current drop in oil price because it’s now below our budget. “We will do a mid-term review, and if the impact is so much, we will need to do an adjustment in the budget, working together with the National Assembly,” Ahmed told State House correspondents after Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja.
The session was presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa. The price of Nigeria’s Brent crude was well above $60 per barrel when Buhari signed the N10.59tn budget into law in December last year. The budget has an oil benchmark of $57 per barrel. However, the price has been on a free fall since January, worsening lately with the outbreak of coronavirus.
As of Wednesday when the minister spoke, the price hovered around $53 per barrel, recording a loss of $4 off the benchmark. But Ahmed noted that a rise in daily oil production above the budgeted two million barrels could draw in some money to cover the loss. She added, “I am glad to inform you that our oil production as of today is two million barrels per day and at times slightly higher like 2.1 million. That in its self will be a cushioning effect for us in the current oil price.”
The minister also spoke on the FEC’s approval of the revised sum of $2.5bn for the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline project. The original proposal for the project in 2017 was $2.89bn. She stated that the project had multiple advantages, including job creation and increase in revenue to government.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire, reassured Nigerians of the preparedness of all health facilities in the country to provide care and prevent the spread of COVID-19 beyond the index case of the Italian who was discovered in Lagos last week. Ehanire stated that so far, government had released a total of N935m to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to procure all the medical supplies it would need to make adequate preparations for the infection.
When asked why the government hid the identity of the Italian, the minister replied that a patient’s identity could only be revealed in the circumstances of an illness if they approved of it. “Under medical ethics, we can’t disclose his identity unless the person says so. That is confidential,” he added.
Compared with the case of the late Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian who imported the Ebola virus into Nigeria in 2014, he said his identity was disclosed because he passed on and an investigation was being conducted into how he came into the country.