Nigeria’s inflation rate rose for the ninth straight month in May 2020 to 12.40 percent year-on-year, 0.06 percent points higher than 12.34 percent recorded in April 2020. This is even as the country continues to deal with the economic implication of the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual inflation is lifted by higher food and drug prices, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Wednesday. The statistics office said month-on-month increases were recorded in the prices of pharmaceutical products, medical services, transport and associated services. Food inflation, which has been in double digits for more than three years accounts for the bulk of the inflation basket, climbing to 15.04 percent in May, compared with 15.03 percent in April. The rising inflation has caused yields on Treasury bills and bonds to turn negative. This is a major stumbling block for the country’s central bank push to attract foreign inflows to support the naira and boost the economy. Nigeria has had more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 455 deaths. Most cases have been in urban areas, where the brunt of price increases has been felt, especially imported drugs and foodstuffs. The FG expects the economy to contract by as much as 8.9 percent this year while the CBN’s governor, Godwin Emefiele, has said that the economy could contract in the second and third quarters but recover in the fourth with the fiscal and monetary policy measures put in place by the authorities.
China has announced its intention to waive some African countries’ debt and willing to provide further support including loan-maturity extensions to free up funds needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. President Xi Jinping said China hopes that the international community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for Africa. The measures add to an initiative by the Group of 20 leading economies to suspend payments for low-income countries that have been pushed to the brink of insolvency by the disease. Speaking at a video conference with African leaders Wednesday, Xi urged creditors to do more. The summit, also attended by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, comes as China tries to deflect criticism over its initial handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and garner global support for its response to the virus. Confirmed cases across Africa have surpassed 260,000, with more than 7,000 deaths. The Chinese said it will ensure that African countries are “among the first to benefit” from any coronavirus vaccine it develops. Ties between China and Africa became strained in April after some African businesspeople in Guangzhou said they were mistreated and discriminated against as the southern mainland city adopted stringent health management restriction for Africans.
Works minister, Babatunde Fashola, has said that the FG has concluded plans to concession 10 major highways in the country. While presenting details of the project to the National Assembly Joint Committee on Works on Wednesday, Fashola said that the project titled, “Highway Development and Management Initiative”, is anchored on a private sector engagement. He said the investors would carry out the development and management of the road networks. The rationale behind the private sector engagement is to provide an avenue to mitigate paucity of funds, which had hindered roads development in the past. The first phase of the project will attract a capital investment of ₦163.323 billion at a cost of about ₦16 billion per each of the 10 roads. The roads are Benin – Asaba, Abuja – Lokoja, Kaduna – Kano, Onitsha – Owerri – Aba, Sagamu -Benin, Abuja -Keffi – Akwanga, Kano – Maiduguri, Lokoja – Benin, Enugu-Port Harcourt, and Ilorin-Jebba. The investors are expected to provide streetlights, toll plazas, rest areas, and weighbridge stations. About 23,322 jobs would be created in the first phase. Another 10 routes are being identified for the second phase of the Value Added Concession.
The Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, has insisted that the new increment on electricity tariff in Nigeria would take off in July. He said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the laid out plan for the repositioning of the electricity market towards financial sustainability under the Power Sector Recovery Programme. The impact of this means the subsidy being incurred in maintaining the current tariff level had to be maintained until July 2020 when the proposed tariff review will be implemented. The regulator, following the completion of public consultation on tariff review, has initially planned to conduct a tariff review in April 2020, the minister said Tuesday during the Investigative Public Hearing on Power Sector Recovery Plan and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic organised by the Senate Committee on Power. However, he said due to the outbreak and customer apathy, the proposed tariff review was delayed by three months. He pointed out that the sector’s development and expansion of its transmission is currently being challenged by the budget and release of FG’s commitment in the estimated sum of ₦32 billion primarily for right of way acquisitions and environmental impact mitigation. The fund should be provided for in 2020, 2021, and 2022 budget appropriation of the Ministry of Power. The COVID-19 pandemic by default affects the purchasing power of consumers and the demand for electricity in general. The minister also added that the power sector was also grappling with the challenges of infrastructural misalignment, market inefficiency/transparency, sector governance/policy coordination, and completion of legacy projects.