Aftermath of COVID-19: Nigeria seeks N3.4bn IMF loan to revive economy as US warns non-citizens to stay away from American hospital




Faced by the stark reality of economic downturn occasioned by COVID-19, the Nigerian government Monday said it had applied for some credit facilities from major global financial institutions.

The revelation came as government said it was also making effort towards raising another N3.2 trillion to finance the battle against the deadly pandemic.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed announced this Monday in Abuja at the formal launch of the N500 billion fiscal stimulus as major response to coronavirus.

Giving a breakdown of the funding plan, the minister said they included a total of $7.05 billion (about N2.68 trillion at N380 to the dollar), in addition to the N500 billion stimulus package by the federal government.

On the credit facilities, she said Nigeria had already applied for about $3.4 billion rapid credit loan facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support its economic stimulus to the nation’s economy ravaged by the pandemic.

She said following the outbreak of the virus currently ravaging the global economy, the IMF approved for its member-nations to request for a rapid credit facility to the limit of their contribution to the Fund.

The minister said Nigeria resolved to apply for 100 per cent of its contribution to the Fund to augment the support from other multilateral organisations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

The money, the minister clarified, would not attract any conditionality to any of the 80 countries that had so far put in requests for the credit facility.

Apart from the loan facility from the IMF, the minister said Nigeria had also requested for similar credit facilities to the tune of $2.5 billion from the World Bank, and $1 billion from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

She also said another $150 million was being expected from the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to be drawn from the Stabilisation Fund.

On when all the monies were expected, she said: “The fastest we expect to come in is the credit from the IMF, within a minimum of six weeks, since a decision had already been taken to give out the money.”

The minister further said monies from the World Bank and the AfDB were expected to come in between two or three months.

N500bn intervention fund

Speaking on the N500 billion COVID-19 crisis intervention fund, the minister said this would involve drawing the much needed cash resources from various special funds and accounts in consultation with the National Assembly and based on the latter’s approval.

Mrs. Ahmed said the fund would be expended on the upgrade of healthcare facilities as identified by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

She further said the fund would also be used to finance the federal government’s intervention to support states in improving healthcare facilities and finance the creation of a special public works programme to create about 1000 jobs in each of the 774 local government areas in the country.

 Speaking on some specifics, the minister said President Buhari had approved the engagement of 774, 000 Nigerians on special public works programme in the country to cushion the effect of the pandemic.

She said the plan, which was a fiscal stimulus in response to COVID-19 pandemic and oil prices fiscal shock, would engage 1,000 people from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.

The minister further said the sum of N60 billion had been earmarked for allowances and operational cost from the COVID-19 crisis intervention fund for the initiative.

Mrs. Ahmed also said President Buhari had previously approved a pilot special public works programme in eight states to be implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).

She added that Buhari had now approved that this programme be extended to all 36 states and the FCT from October to December 2020 and the selected time-frame was to ensure that it was implemented after the planting season.

“The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning is also evaluating how best to extend the Special Public Works Programme, to provide modest stipends for itinerant workers to undertake Roads Rehabilitation and Social Housing Construction, and  also Urban and Rural Sanitation, Health Extension and other critical services.

“This intervention will be undertaken in conjunction with the key federal ministries responsible for Agriculture, Environment, Health and Infrastructure, as well as the states, to financially empower individuals who lose their jobs due to the economic crisis.

“Mr. President has approved the establishment of a-N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund. The establishment of the Fund will involve drawing much-needed cash resources from various Special Funds and Accounts, in consultation with and with the approval of the National Assembly.

“The N500 billion is proposed to be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities as earlier identified by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and approved by Mr. President.

“This will help to finance the Federal Government’s Interventions to support states in improving healthcare facilities, finance the creation of a Special Public Works Programme and Fund any additional interventions that may be approved by Mr. President,” the minister said.

While recalling that similar challenges were experienced in 2008/2009 as well as in 2015/2016, she said Nigeria had considerably lower fiscal buffers now than in previous economic downturns.

According to her, the decline in international oil prices and domestic production may be magnified if a severe outbreak of COVID-19 occurs, despite ongoing efforts to curtail the spread of the pandemic through compulsory lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the FCT.

The minister said, to directly address these health and economic challenges, the president approved the fiscal stimulus package among others as part of an Integrated Policy Framework to ensure Nigeria’s healthcare system, fiscal position and economy were sufficiently supported to weather these shocks. (NAN)

 UN

Meanwhile, the United Nations system in Nigeria and federal government Monday launched the COVID-19 Basket Fund to complement ongoing efforts at mobilising resources in support of the National COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Pandemic Response Plan developed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The Basket Fund would serve as the One COVID-19 Financing and Investment Platform for diverse stakeholders like the UN, multilaterals, bilaterals, private sector, foundations and philanthropists to channel their financial support to ensure an efficient, effective and impactful response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Basket Fund would be facilitated and implemented by the UN system in Nigeria, through a project management board comprising representatives of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Response, relevant government agencies, contributing donors and the UN system.

“We applaud the Nigerian government at all levels for its efforts and measures to urgently mobilize resources to address the impact of COVID-19. But the government cannot do it alone. For the country to succeed in fighting back the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, we must all come together across all sectors to support the government at this time of great need,” said Mr. Edward Kallon, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Nigeria.

The National COVID-19 Response Plan is developed around 10 pillars, encompassing scaling up surveillance, testing, isolation, contact tracing, infection prevention and control (including protection of medical staff), case management of critically unwell COVID-19 patients, risk communication and community engagement, research and emergency preparedness, security and logistics for mass care, and coordination and resource mobilization.

The UN system is supporting the government of Nigeria through the Basket Fund and urging others to invest in the 10 pillars of the national response plan.

Where called upon by government and donors, the initiative would also fund socio-economic measures such as cash transfers or food distribution to vulnerable groups adversely affected by measures instituted to control further spread of the pandemic.

Under the delivering as one framework, the UN in Nigeria, through the Basket Fund, has already mobilised and deployed over USD $2 million from the UN system for the procurement of essential medical supplies that would boost the efforts of the Nigerian Government in containing COVID-19 and caring for those confirmed cases in need of serious medical attention.

Other key donors have welcomed the creation of the Basket Fund as a mechanism to channel urgent assistance.

“At this time of need, Nigeria is not alone, the European Union is committing to supporting the Government of Nigeria in addressing the challenges of the pandemic. The COVID19 Basket Fund avails us with the opportunity to cooperate and act rapidly in the deployment of assistance that can help enhance the healthcare services and cushion the most vulnerable,” said Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Head of European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

In his remarks, Nigeria’s health minister, Dr Osagie Ehanire said:  “We must also commend the Executive Director of Global Fund for exhibiting flexibility, which has allowed Nigeria to submit a proposal to reprogramme savings from existing Global Funds grants to urgently scale up surveillance, diagnostics, infection control and other strategic measures to support the national COVID-19 response plan.”

 Reflecting on the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 and the need for actors to come together, the chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Response, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the federal government “appreciates the role the UN is playing to rally partners to support the country’s efforts to fight the pandemic and the operationalisation.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the COVID-19 Basket Fund would be a great help in complementing government’s efforts to coordinate rapid deployment of assistance where it is needed the most.

 US hospitals overwhelmed

Amidst all of this, the government of United States of America (USA) has warned its citizens seeking evacuation from Nigeria to stay back.

The government said this had become imperative because its healthcare system was already overwhelmed by the rising cases of coronavirus.

As at Monday, the country confirmed 336,851 cases, 9,620 deaths and 17,977 recoveries.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the US is higher than all confirmed cases in Spain, Italy and United Kingdom (UK), which are 135,032; 128,948, and 47,806 respectively.

In a statement on its website Monday, the US Mission in Nigeria said Americans seeking evacuation should be aware of the situation of things at home.

It pointed out that medical care in the US was no longer covered by insurance because the healthcare system was overwhelmed.

The mission said evacuation would be self-funded, and that “passengers must sign a promissory note and repay the full cost of their seat(s).”

“U.S. Embassy Abuja and U.S. Consulate General Lagos would like potential evacuees to bear in mind the following considerations in determining if an evacuation flight is in the best interest of you and your family,” the statement read.

“This is a self-funded, one way flight to a single destination in the United States.  All passengers must sign a promissory note and repay the full cost of their seat(s).

“In addition, travellers are responsible for organising and funding any travel to their final destination in the United States, all living expenses while in the United States, and any return travel to Nigeria. Evacuation flights can range between $1,300 and $2,400 per person.

“Healthcare systems in many localities in the United States are currently overwhelmed. If you need to seek medical care while in the United States, you will be responsible for all costs not covered by your insurance.

“Many hotels in the United States have closed or are closing.  If you plan to evacuate to the United States, please ensure you secure accommodations before you travel.

“At this time, Nigerian airports are closed to all commercial international flights.  If you evacuate to the United States, it is unlikely you will be able to return to Nigeria until the Nigerian government reopens the airports and commercial flights resume,” the mission said.

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