Nigeria: Coronavirus - Deeper Trouble Awaits Nigeria If... - Senate President

17 March 2020

President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan warned Tuesday that following the impact of the ravaging Coronavirus on the economy, Nigeria will be in deeper trouble if as a country, we are not ingenious enough.

Against this backdrop, the Senate has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva to appear before it at Plenary next week.

According to Lawan, the summon would enable the Ministers and the CBN to abreast the la lawmakers with what was going on at the moment with the economy and then the Senators can make suggestions, just as the Apex bank boss will come up with some measures that are intended to support the economy.

According to Lawan, the system requires a holistic approach, both fiscal as well as monetary policies, just as he promised that the Senate would come up with speedy legislations that would help create an environment where the nation's economy does not collapse.

Lawan has also urged the Executive to as a matter of urgency, forward to the Senate the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB for quick consideration and passage.

The President of the Senate spoke yesterday after the Consideration of Report of Joint Committees on Finance, Appropriations, National Planning and Economic Affairs and Petroleum Resources( Upstream) on the sharp drop in Oil Prices and Other economic issues by the Outbreak of deadly Coronavirus( Covid-19) as presented by the Chairman, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos West.

Lawan said: "I think we are in a very challenging period but every challenge normally presents some opportunities. I think like Senator Odebiyi asserted that we should take our opportunities.

"The PIB we had expected by now would have been in the National Assembly but it is not. We had thought we would be able to pass the PIB within this year so that we are able to make our petroleum industry to have the legal framework that investors would find attractive to be here. But we are still expecting that the executive would work faster and harder to present the PIB to the National Assembly in the shortest possible time.

"But before then, now that we know that it is difficult or even impossible to get the foreign loans that we had built our hopes and implementation of our capital budgets on, I think we have to be very ingenious as a country. We have to look inwards.

"The Central Bank of Nigeria has come up with some measures that are intended to support the economy. I think it requires a holistic approach, both fiscal as well as monetary policies and if need be we pass a speedy legislations to create an environment where our economy does not collapse; that our economy is sustained with internal resources.

"But we have to be very careful. If we have to now borrow as a Government from the domestic available resources, we should be very careful that we do not crowd out the private sector from getting required loans. So it is going to be walking a tight rope. But we need to have a plan in which both the executive and the legislature come together.

"We need to listen to them really. I would probably suggest that going forward, in the next one or two weeks that the entire Senate to have a briefing from the Ministries of Finance, Petroleum and the Central Bank so that we are abreast with what is going on and then we can make our suggestions.

"But meanwhile, our Joint Committee continues to engage them, but this is a very tough time and it is a time that we should not suffer only but we should also benefit from this tough time.

"We need to understand what the CBN is talking about. I saw about seven or eight measures that the CBN has come up with to support local investments. We need to engage them and find out whether that is good enough or we can do better because the truth is, every country now will be trying to stay alive.

"So probably there may not be anything to spare for any other country and if we are not ingenious enough, I think we will be in a deeper trouble. But Nigeria is a very resilient country so we should come together with the executive arm of government and work out a way out of this mess and probably come up with more serious agenda for diversification."


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