Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday established a Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Coronavirus-19 Disease (COVID-19), 12 days after the first case of the disease was diagnosed in the country.
The “start and finish task group” is expected to deliver on its mandate within a maximum period of six months.
President Buhari also set up a committee to access the impact of the Coronavirus epidemic on Nigeria’s 2020 budget and the economy in general. The committee is also empowered to check how the dwindling price of crude oil caused by the outbreak will affect the country’s economy.
Presidential Spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, said ina statement that the constitution of the committees have become imperative “given 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.”
According to the statement, “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.
The members of the panel comprise of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha as chairperson, Dr. Sani Aliyu (National Coordinator) Ministers of Health, Interior, Aviation, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, Education, Information and Culture and Environment. Other members are the Director General, Department of State Services, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative.
The Presidential panel on the impact of Coronavirus on the Nigerian economy, which will submit its report Tuesday, is chaired by Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ms. Zainab Ahmed.
Other members are the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; the Minister of State, Budget, Clement Agba and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari.
Ms. Ahmed told journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that after their meeting, they (committee) would decide whether to reduce the budget benchmark of $57 per barrel.
“But, what that figure will be is what the committee will decide,” she stated.
Mrs. Ahmed said that in the event it became necessary to reduce the benchmark, ”the committee will also recommend a reduction in the size of the N10.59 trillion budget”.
She did not elaborate on the areas of the budget that could be affected by a cut.
The price of crude oil tumbled more than 30 per cent overnight and now sits below $34 a barrel, a low level not been seen since early 2016.
The fall comes after Saudi Arabia announced massive discounts to its official prices for April as a response to the OPEC allies failing to reach a middle ground over deeper supply cuts.
To make matters worse, oil prices are on a slippery decline with more negative headlines on the coronavirus outbreak compounding downside losses.