The head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said that the country is considering partnerships between state governments and private firms to increase testing and tracing of coronavirus cases after international flights resume August 29. The airports have been closed since 23 March to all but essential overseas flights to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. According to the NCDC director, talks had been held with private companies over possible partnerships on testing and tracing in some states. He said Lagos and Abuja are the primary locations, and from that, the centre will learn what to do for the other three international airports in the country. State governments are responsible for testing and tracing but the influx of travellers will increase the pressure on already stretched authorities in Nigeria, which has had 50,488 cases resulting in 985 deaths. Arrivals may be expected to contribute financially towards their tests since they made a decision to travel, Ihekweazu added. He did not disclose the companies involved.
The higher crude oil sales and tax receipts have boosted Nigeria’s gross revenues to ₦676.41 billion in July 2020, Accountant-General Ahmed Idris said, compared to ₦653.35 billion recorded in June. The government said revenues from oil, Nigeria’s main export, with sales tax increase in the month of July, while corporate taxes and import duty decreased. The balance on its oil surplus savings account stood at $72.41 million as at Aug 2019, the FG said as income from crude sales and value-added tax made up the bulk of its gross revenues. The FG, at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee virtual meeting, Wednesday, received ₦273.189 billion, the states received ₦190.849 billion, the Local Government councils got ₦142.761 billion, while the oil-producing states received ₦42.851 billion as derivation or 13% of mineral revenue, and Cost of Collection/Transfer and Refund got ₦26.757 billion. The price of oil fell sharply early this year as the coronavirus outbreak hit demand, cutting government revenues, weakening the naira, and creating a large financing gap for the country. The global oil benchmark Brent has since recovered from a 21-year low below $16 in April. OPEC member Nigeria relies on crude oil sales for two-thirds of government revenue. Companies in the country have seen profits slump, especially in the second quarter when the government imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Also, restrictions on international travel and dollar shortages have hurt imports. Nigeria increased VAT to 7.5% in February, this year, from 5% to boost revenues, seen among the lowest in the world.
Six months after its inauguration, the Senate Constitution Review Committee held its first meeting Thursday and pledged that the draft of the revised 1999 Constitution will be ready before the end of Q1 2021. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the committee’s head, said the assignment is one that must be carried out jointly with the House of Representatives, apart from other stakeholders in the various Houses of Assembly and members of the public, adding that he’s in touch with his counterpart in the House to work out the modalities for a harmonious working relationship. The House of Representatives has assured that it will soon constitute its constitution review committee. Omo-Agege said the key areas include “the need to make the Constitution more gender friendly and affirm equal rights to women and girls, the need to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Federal Character Commission and other oversight agencies, the need to address the challenges of residency and indigeneship”. Others, he said, are, “the need to address the federal structure of the country to be in tandem with our history and modern realities, the need to revisit socio-economic and cultural rights as entrenched in Chapter 2 of the constitution as fundamental principles of state policy, electoral reforms veto make our electoral system credible, free and fair, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation and comprehensive judicial reforms”.
World Bank President David Malpass warned Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic might have driven as many as 100 million people back into extreme poverty. The bank has earlier projected that 60 million people would fall into extreme poverty because of COVID-19, but the new estimate puts the deterioration at 70 million to 100 million. Malpass said “that number could go higher” if the pandemic worsens or drags on. The situation makes it “imperative” that creditors reduce the amount of debt held by developing countries at risk, going beyond the commitment to suspend debt payments, Malpass said told AFP. The Washington-based development lender added that even so, more countries will be obliged to restructure their debt as debt vulnerabilities are high, and the imperative of getting light at the end of the tunnel so that new investors can come in is substantial. Advanced economies in the Group of 20 already have committed to suspending debt payments from the poorest nations through the end of the year, and there is growing support for extending that moratorium into next year. But Malpass said that would not be enough, since the economic downturn means those countries, which already are struggling to provide a safety net for their citizens, will not be in a better position to deal with the payments. The amount of debt reduction needed will depend on the situation in each country, he said, but the policy “makes a lot of sense.” The lender has committed to deploying $160 billion to 100 countries through June 2021 in an effort to address the immediate emergency, but even so, extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $1.90 a day, continues to rise. Malpass said the deterioration is due to a combination of the destruction of jobs during the pandemic as well as supply issues that make access to food more difficult.