In the wake of the global crash of crude oil prices, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FG) has begun consultations with relevant stakeholders on the possibility of reducing the pump price of petrol.
The Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, disclosed this while speaking with the State House Correspondents, after the committee inaugurated by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to assess the impact of coronavirus on the economy, met with him (Buhari) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday.
Sylva clarified that decisions to cut the pump price of petrol have not been taken, but consultations were on.
“We are still consulting and we are still following it closely. We will get back to you, please, be patient!” he stated.
Since January, Crude Oil prices have witnessed a steady fall from $60 it was when President Buhari signed the N10.59tn budget into law in December. The price of Brent crude was $34.5 on Friday, which is far below the $57 budgeted for the 2020.
Nigeria, an oil-producing country, imports refined petroleum for domestic consumption at a high pump price, leaving holes in the pockets of consumers. In spite of the reports by fuel import monitors that landing cost has dropped lately, the pump price of petrol has remained at N145 per litre.
Since the crude prices began a downward swing in January, there have been strident calls for cuts in the pump price but the government has not heeded to the calls.
After a meeting with Buhari at the State House, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed disclosed that N285bn have been released to a number of agencies as of Tuesday this week. “We prioritise the releases to the critical infrastructure agencies. We have also made the releases for education as well as health. So, the ministries of Transportation; Works and Housing; Niger Delta; and a number of ministries and agencies that have important infrastructural projects have got their funds,” Ahmed said.
She added that another $220m was released as counterpart funding for railway projects by the Ministry of Transportation.
According to her, the budget is now facing implementation challenges amid the crash in crude oil prices owing to the outbreak of coronavirus.
Asked whether Nigeria’s reluctance to suspend flights to and from high-risk countries was to due to the effects it might have on the economy, Ahmed replied that it was the government’s medical team that would decide if a ban or suspension was necessary.
“As far as I know, the assessment of the Nigerian medical team is not yet available, and as far as I know, the international community has been commending the efforts of the Nigerian medical team in trying to protect Nigerians from being infected with this disease. So, we will manage the economy by prioritising what we can do during the period that there will be slow activities so that when things pick up, everything will go back to normal,” she said.
Also commenting on the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, described as needless the activities of foreign exchange speculators, whom he said created anxiety in the currency market lately.
He said, “We have released a circular to say there is no need to panic; anybody who has legitimate business will get foreign exchange to conduct their business.”
“What are we saying? If you want to travel, which we don’t advise at this time, you will get foreign exchange to travel. You want to conduct business or import? You will get foreign exchange to conduct that import transaction. Whatever you need foreign exchange to do, there is no need for panic.”
To prevent the panic in the forex market, Emefiele said the apex bank had begun collaboration with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and other security agencies.