The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has attacked all Nigeria’s revenue sources, leaving the Federal Government cash-strapped, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Wednesday.
“We are all witnessing what is going on in the world today. When the budget was passed in December last year, we all celebrated that the budget was passed for the first time in a good time to allow for us to plan. We were very hopeful that this year we will be able to achieve a lot.
“I remember that the benchmark for crude oil was $57 but from nowhere today we have COVID-19, which has brought every economy in the world to its knees. Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“As a matter of fact, we are praying that the crude will go to $30 per barrel. All sources of revenue have been attacked by COVID-19, when we locked our borders how will goods come in? How will Customs make money for the country?’’ he said while reacting to reporters’ questions on complaints of paucity of funds by ministries, departments and agencies to execute their projects.
The minister pointed out: “Abuja, Lagos and Ogun have been on lockdown for more than four weeks. It was only yesterday that we were easing the lockdown. How will they make money to pay taxes? So if we say there is no money it is not because we are seeking for lame excuses.
“The entire world, not just Nigeria is facing serious fiscal challenges. Forty million people in the US today have filed for unemployment; the aviation industry alone has lost about $1 trillion.
“So please look at this in context, if you budgeted for $57 a barrel and we sold at $18 a barrel two weeks ago. This is why the Minister of Finance at the last Federal Executive Council meeting informed all of us that they will slash every ministry’s budget by 20 percent capital and 16 percent overhead.’’
Mohammed retorted: “So where will the money come from? So when we complain there is no money, it is genuine.’’
On COVID-19, the minister said the health crisis had caused the country a fortune, saying “If you know what is being spent on COVID-19 alone and what it is costing the whole world, you will be able to appreciate this better.”