COVID-19: NEC sets up committee to coordinate responses

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ( R) presiding over National Economic Council, NEC meeting in Abuja.

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

The National Economic Council (NEC) has set up a special committee to coordinate the responses of the federal and state governments to COVID-19 and determine its implication for Nigeria’s economy.

The committee was set up at Thursday’s meeting of the Council presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, South-South Nigeria who briefed the media after the meeting, said the committee would be chaired by the vice president and would have the governors of Jigawa, Ebonyi, Edo, Nassarawa, Kebbi, Kaduna and Ogun as members.

Obaseki said that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria also briefed the NEC on the COVID 19 pandemic, pointing out that though it is a public health issue, it has consequences for the financial market.

“He said that even though analysts had predicted that the year 2020 would be a difficult because of the US-China trade war, they did not anticipate that the issue of COVID 19 would have the kind of effect it now has on the financial market,” Obaseki quoted the CBN Governor as having said in his report to the council.

He said the CBN governor stated that Nigeria’s first priority was to keep Nigerians as healthy as possible by ensuring that health care facilities are boosted.

According to Obaseki, the CBN has put in place some policy measures to cushion the effect of the virus on small businesses in Nigeria.

Obaseki said that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, also briefed the NEC on the measure already taken by the Nigerian government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obaseki stated that among the steps listed by Mr Mustapha in his report to the NEC was the setting up of a Presidential Committee on the Coronavirus.

“The SGF admonished that all the 36 states should begin to build capacity in their people to tackle this pandemic.

“He revealed that the government was concerned about measures such as social distancing should be adopted in addition to issues related to personal hygiene.”He added.

Obaseki said that the council resolved that public gatherings should be discouraged and recommended that the maximum number of people in social gatherings should be reduced.

“The SGF suggested that states and their governors should look at the possibilities of shutting down schools and also regulating the number of people in social gatherings and also in places of worship,” Governor Obaseki stated.

Market forces

Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has said that market forces and competition in the oil market would stabilize the price of premium motor spirit and bring it down to the new price of N125/litre.

Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, stated this while briefing the media after the meeting of the National Economic Council.

He said that the NNPC has adjusted prices in line with the directive, but pointed out that independent oil marketers who bought their stock at the old price would want to sell before adjusting to avoid losses.

Kyari said that he briefed the NEC meeting on the impact of the COVID-19 on the price of oil in the international market.

He expressed hope that despite the glut in the oil market at present Nigeria’s crude would still sell because of its high grade.

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