COVID-19: Economic Council meets Buhari, lists dangers ahead for Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari

The Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) led by Prof. Doyin Salami has painted a sobering scenarios of what could happen to the Nigerian economy, if the COVID-19 pandemic lasted for too long.

Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman, said in a statement that PEAC spoke on Tuesday at State House, Abuja, when briefing session by the President Muhammadu Buhari.

In his briefing, Salami, leading the PEAC members, painted sobering scenarios of what could happen to the Nigerian economy, if the COVID-19 pandemic lasted for too long.

This, according to him, include slower growth, as the supply and demand sides of global economy would be affected; uncertainty, which would erode confidence; governments acting unilaterally instead of cooperatively; further drop in oil prices, and lockdowns gaining grounds around the world.

”There would also be oil glut, trade imbalance, drop in foreign reserves and rise in unemployment,” he said.

While noting that many countries round the world may go into economic recession, the PEAC advocated hard work for Nigeria to keep its head above the waters.

The council recommended, among others, a possible revision of the 2020 Budget, with priority spending on healthcare, reprioritisation of expenditure on infrastructure to focus on projects nearing completion with pro-poor effects and curtailing recurrent expenditure.

It added that the private sector should be mobilised to strengthen health sector infrastructure and boosting of government revenue.

The PEAC also stressed that the projections may seem dire, but the worst may be avoided with hard work and scrupulous implementation of policies.

In his response, President Buhari said Nigeria has foreseen the economic problems that may come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will explore all alternatives to protect citizens.

The president noted that with oil prices oscillating between 29 and 30 dollars in recent times, as opposed to the 57 dollars benchmark for year 2020 Budget, many variables, including production cost and political impact will determine oil prices.

”We will see how to survive fallen prices, as we already envisaged the problem,” he added.

He explained that protecting the people from vagaries of international economic fortunes, ”and associated fallen prices of oil, is a priority of government, and we will do our best to do so”.

While stressing the importance of education and healthcare, Buhari submitted that if people were adequately educated “they won’t accept any form of mismanagement by leadership, nor would they allow themselves to be manipulated by those promoting ethnic and religious sentiments”.

He promised that inputs in agriculture, education and healthcare would continue as much as practicable.