The Federal Government is considering the conversion of University Halls in the country to emergency hospitals in the face of Coronavirus pandemic. RootstvNigeria can exclusively report.
This was part of the deliberation made at a meeting of principal officers of the National Assembly with some ministers and heads of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).
While the thrust of the meeting which lasted for over four hours was a review of the 2020 budget and Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, the representatives of the executives agreed with some of the suggestions offered by the lawmakers on the right options to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
RootstvNigeria reliably gathered that the conversation of major hotels to emergency hospitals was one of the options for the Federal Government but the idea was rejected owing to the cost burden this might placed on the Government.
The Federal Government also agreed to engage telecommunication companies on how best to subsidize data charges for Nigerians, whose majority has been compelled to start working from home as part of measures to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus in the country.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed disclosed at the meeting that the Federal Government is preparing to release N10 billion to Lagos State to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, while pharmaceutical companies will receive a N1 billion grant.
Currently, there have been 51 confirmed cases in Nigeria with Lagos and FCT recording 32 and 10 cases respectively. Ogun (3), Ekiti (1), Oyo (1), Edo (1), Bauchi (1), Osun (1) and Rivers (1) are the states that have recorded cases of the virus.
With the outbreak of the virus, which has killed thousands and infected thousands more, the price of crude oil, which is the mainstay of the country’s economy, is trading below federal government’s benchmark for this year’s budget, even as the government explores several options to hedge the effect. This eventually forced the government into announcing a cut of ₦10.6 trillion in the 2020 budget by at least ₦1.5 trillion, and a change in the benchmark oil price from $50 to $30 per barrel.
Similarly, Nigeria’s latest Excess Crude Account balance, according to a statement from the Office of Accountant General of the Federation, was put at $71.81m, while movement in reserves showed that the country’s reserves stood at $35.94 billion at the weekend, down by $2.59 billion from $38.53 billion in which it opened the year.
Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced six new policy measures to mitigate the spread of the dreaded coronavirus across the country.
The apex bank governor, Godwin Emefiele had said intervention facilities includes the establishment of N50 billion facility through the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) microfinance bank for households as well as Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) that have been hit by the COVID-19.
He also said the apex bank’s intervention facilities had been granted a further moratorium of one year in all principal repayments, with effect from March 2020.
According to him, any intervention loan currently under moratorium has been granted an additional period of one year.
Emefiele also announced the reduction of interest rates on all applicable CBN intervention facilities to five percent from nine per cent per annum, for one year effective from this month.