The approval of N2.3 trillion by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) as recommended by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo committee is a welcome development. The fund, if religiously applied, will, to a large extent, mitigate the adverse effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s economy as well as possibly save the economy from another imminent recession, the second in three years.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja last week. She said the NESP would support the Nigerian economy in the face of the disruptions and challenges occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic.
The minister also said the goal of the scheme was to create jobs, put money into the economy to hopefully stop it slipping into recession, and support small businesses and prioritize local content. The plan, Ahmed said, was a 12-month transit arrangement between the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the ERGP-successor-plan currently being worked upon.
“The total package that we presented today is in the sum of N2.3 trillion, N500 billion of this is a stimulus package that is already provided for in the amended in the 2020 Appropriations Act. These are funds that we have sourced from special accounts. We also have N1.2 trillion of these funds to be sourced as structured low cost loans which are interventionary from the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as other development partners and institutions. We have N344 billion that will be sourced from bilateral and external sources and also additional funds that we can source locally.
“There is a strategy that has been adopted and this whole plan is to enable us respond to the triple problem of low exchange rate, youth unemployment as well as negative growth which is facing us now. The plan has to also support small businesses that have suffered severe impact of COVID-19 as a result of lockdowns. Specially, the hotel industry, private schools, restaurants as well as the transport sector have been very well impacted by this. We have also seen a significant impact on the poor and the vulnerable and even people that were okay as small traders, have been hard hit by stand still that we witnessed as a result of lockdowns.
“Council was able to take our reports and the intervention in the plan is that will prevent businesses from collapsing and also to infuse liquidity around the Nigerian economy, to create jobs using labour intensive methods such as agriculture, facility management, housing, construction, direct labour interventions that will create a lot of jobs very quickly. We had also proposed in the plan to undertake growth enhancing jobs, creating infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, solar power, communications technology and several others. We have promoted in the plan manufacturing and local production at all levels, we are advocating for the use of made in Nigeria in all of these public works that we will be doing as a way of cresting jobs opportunities to enhance jobs sufficiency.
“So, we expect for road construction for instance, we expect the minister of works not to buy bitumen but to consider the use of gemstones and cement or other materials that can be used here, that way we converse our resources and will also be able to ignite other sectors within the economy. The same thing for housing as well, the design is to have 300,000 houses built using standard designs that will be done by the Ministry of Works and Housing but using strictly low cost materials. On the building sites, the plan is to have carpenters and others that will have multiplier effect on the economy.
“The third pillar for us is to ensure rigorous implementation and this is important because this is a 12- month plan that is meant to pull our economy from sliding into a deep recession. It will also be a plan that will anchor to the successor period that we have already started working on. It is a 12-month plan, a transit plan meant to be implemented quickly. To that effect, the federal executive council has agreed that the procurement processes become relaxed in a manner that we are adopting a faster mood as opposed to using the longer procurement process. With the National Assembly passing the budget, we have funding ready to go but we need procurement to be done quickly so that this money can be put to immediate use,” she said.
It is our conviction that with the N2.3 trillion stimulus plan coupled with the oft assurances by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that it would not be deterred in its effort to steer the Nigerian economy away from the looming recession due to the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the push by some vested interests to impugn the integrity of the bank, there will be a rebound of the nation’s economy, which will, once again, become resilient, virile, and buoyant.