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COVID-19: FG may review 2020 budget, says Finance Minister

Following the economic impact of the deadly coronavirus, Zainab Ahmed, the minister of finance has hinted that the federal government may be forced to review the approved 2020 budget.

The Minister disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

She explained that already, the international oil price had dropped, but added that oil production has increased between two million barrels and 2.1 million barrels per day.

She said: “We are concerned because it does have an impact on revenue and at the current crude oil price of 53 per cent is below the budget benchmark.

“What we are doing is that we are studying the situation and when the budget was passed, we committed to do a midterm review. We will do the midterm review and if the revenue is so significantly affected, we will have to do some revisions in the budget by way of budget adjustment.

“I will want to inform that the crude production is now at 2 million barrels per day and in some days it has moved up to 2.1 million barrels per day so that in itself will be a cushion.

“All the same we are not taking any measures now until we have a reasonable period we make a review and then we may need to make an adjustment of the budget through working together with the National Assembly. Today at Council, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning together with the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, presented a joint memo.

“The memorandum was seeking council’s approval for the issuance of a sovereign guarantee to the tune of 85 per cent of the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano project which we call AKK.

“This is not a new contract, it was previously approved by council in 2017 in the sum of $2.89 billion. The memo of today is at a revised cost of $2.571 billion equivalent to a 10 per cent discount of the original sum.

“The previous contract was a contractor financing model, the contract that has been approved today is an EPC lump sum contract with the NNPC required to pay 15 per cent of the contract amount while the 85 per cent will be provided by Cynosure of China in the form of loan facility with a sovereign guarantee.”

Meanwhile, Lagos State government said yesterday that though the COVID-19 index case was stable, it would not be released until they stopped secreting the virus.

It also expressed worry that the 35 unreachable passengers onboard the Turkish airline that brought the index case to the country could be a potential threat to the containment efforts.

Giving updates on the outbreak in Lagos, the State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, explained that as long as the index case was still excreting the virus, it was dangerous to the community.

He said: “The index case is doing fine. We started a new treatment on him two days ago which he is responding to. He is comfortable; he is lonely because he is the only one in the isolation room of 14 beds.

“We test him every day to ascertain whether evidence of virus still exists.

“The moment we stop seeing the traces of the virus, we will wait for extra three days just to make sure everything is alright because sometimes we may think the virus is cleared and there may be a recurrence. So we have to be very careful. So he will remain with us.”

Continuing, Abayomi said that the three people that exhibited symptoms tested negative to the virus.

“The gentleman from the Ethiopia Airlines, the Chinese man and a lady from Ewekoro all tested negative,” he said.

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