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COVID-19: Senate considers slashing 2020 budget

As the outbreak of Coronavirus hits the world economy, the Nigerian Senate is considering slashing the =N=10.72 billion 2020 budget as passed by the National Assembly.

Senate said reducing the budget will enable the nation to meet up with the present reality, especially by slashing the overhead.

It resolved to continue engaging the executive, saying Nigeria must not be allowed to suffer in the present economic crisis brought by the Coronavirus outbreak.

The decision of the Senate was sequel to the presentation of a report of joint committees on Finance; Appropriations; National Planning and Economic Affairs, and Petroleum Resources (Upstream), chaired by Senator Solomon Adeola.

The report followed the Senate directive at its sitting on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, after a point of order by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, on the urgent need to monitor and examine the current economic reality which was occasion as a result of sharp drop in the price of crude oil, the emergence of deadly virus Coronavirus/COVID-19 and the uproar within the OPEC community.

According to the report, “The downsizing of the Appropriation Act 2020 as passed by the National Assembly is inevitable but the modalities to be adopted in the reduction of the budget must be used as suggested by the Appropriations chairman and agreed to by the joint committee.

“The revenue generating agencies must be alive to their responsibility in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed by the National Assembly and other relevant laws of the National Assembly,” the Senate stated.

Naira Devaluation

On the devaluation of Naira, the committees said while the federal government has come out to tell Nigerians that devaluation of Naira is not on its agenda as the recent drop in the price of oil necessitated the recent drop in the value of Naira and rise in the value of Dollar, which experts believe will be over as soon as a solution is found to COVID–19 and the price war between OPEC members, that is, Saudi Arabia and Russia is over.

Senator Adeola also said the Minister of Finance through the Accountant General Office informed the committees that budget implementation has since commenced with relevant releases ranging from personnel and overhead cost for the month of January & February in accordance with the Appropriation Act passed by National Assembly.

Other statutory finance obligations for the month of January & February have since been met, which includes statutory transfer, pension, and payment of debt both foreign and local.

“The capital releases for the first quarter commence by second week in March with the sum of =N=340 billion to be released to the critical sector of the Economy such as Transport, Agriculture, Works and Housing, Health and other Social and Real sector has commenced. The effects of the sharp drop in the crude oil price will be felt with the effect from May, June and July from our findings,” the committee report said.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan said the world is in a challenging period but added that every challenge come with opportunity.

He said the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB will be passed this year for investors to find Nigeria attractive for business, adding that now that it’s difficult to get the foreign loan, they must look inward.

Source: Voice of Nigeria