Tells agencies to protect national infrastructure
Omololu Ogunmade and Ogheneuvede Ohwovoriole in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed the repositioning of the economy, in compliance with the advice of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), which admonished him to take tough economic decisions to redeem the gasping economy.
The president has also instructed the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami, to work with government agencies to ensure full protection of critical national infrastructure.
At a meeting with the president in the State House on Tuesday, the PEAC had painted a looming negative impact that COVID-19 would have on the economy but swiftly added that Nigeria could survive if it opts to work hard.
A statement yesterday in Abuja by a presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, revealed more recommendations of the PEAC, adding that Buhari has commenced the implementation of the recommendations with an order for a review of the 2020 budget to reflect current realities in the oil sector.
He also instructed economic managers to prioritise the health sector infrastructure to respond to the threats posed by COVID-19.
The federal government had on Wednesday announced its decision to cut the 2020 budget by N1.5 trillion, reduce the oil benchmark to $30 per barrel and cut capital budget by 20 per cent.
The statement said: “President Buhari gave the directive after the 2nd Regular Meeting of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), which also recommended securitisation of government debt, design and the institutionalisation of a revenue stabilisation programme and the imperative of cutting the cost of governance at all levels.
“The president agreed with the advisory council on the need to prepare the country to take the necessary tough economic decisions, including embarking on a national agenda of stakeholder mobilisation – bringing the National Assembly, government organs, private sector and civil society together around a programme to respond to the major challenges confronting the nation.
“Highlighting immediate and short-term measures to consider and implement in order to mitigate any adverse economic effects, the meeting reviewed the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential economic spill-over effects on the global and Nigerian economy.”
It added that the president’s meeting with the PEAC reviewed the state of the economy and noted its continued fragility and vulnerability to external shocks in spite of recent gains in output growth.
The meeting, it said, noted with concern, the changing economic fundamentals as manifested in a renewed cycle of rising prices and weaknesses in the external sector.
It also considered the imminent indirect effect of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s trading partners and the global economy, “with implications of a global recession that could slow down Nigeria’s fragile growth and trigger exchange rate re-alignment.”
Buhari Tells Govt Agencies to Protect National Assets
Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday in Abuja directed Pantami to work with government agencies to ensure full protection of critical national infrastructure.
The president, according to his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, issued the directive while unveiling the National Broadband Plan 2020–2025 at the inauguration of the communications and digital economy complex.
The president also inaugurated the digital innovation and entrepreneurship training, the Abuja Emergency Communication Centre and the National Emergency Toll-Free Number 112.
Buhari urged mobile network operators to ensure they achieve the targets set in the national broadband plan by giving special attention to un-served and underserved areas while deploying their services.
The president expressed concern over the challenges faced by operators in the country, especially the vandalism of telecommunications equipment, but assured the operators of government’s commitment to ensuring that all stakeholders have a conducive environment to ensure the successful implementation of the broadband plan, which sought to boost broadband penetration as well as support the deployment of 4G across the country.
He described the inauguration of the Emergency Communications Centre and Toll-Free Number 112, as a demonstration of his administration’s resolve to keep Nigerians safe.
On Digital Nigeria Programme, the president described it as one of the federal government’s key initiatives to empower innovators and entrepreneurs with required skills to thrive in the emerging digital economy.
He said the Communications and Digital Economy Complex would provide a befitting coordinating centre for the new focus on the Nigerian digital economy.
Earlier, the president acknowledged that the dwindling price of crude oil has adversely affected budgetary projections and increased the sense of urgency to diversify the economy.
He, however, expressed delight that the projects inaugurated would enhance the development of the national digital economy, support efforts at diversifying the economy and aid the fight against corruption.
In his speech, Pantami described broadband penetration as a key tool in reviving the Nigerian economy.
The minister, while citing reports from World Bank and the World Economic Forum said 10 per cent broadband penetration in any country would improve its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by at least 4.6 per cent.
He quoted the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, as saying that the country’s broadband penetration had increased to 38.5 per cent.