The House of Representatives is to consider a fresh Stimulus Bill that will ensure that Nigerians get free electricity supply for two months to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaker Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila said the proposed Bill is to help in boosting the economy through the informal sector as the country prepares for the aftermath of the Coronavirus.
“It is one thing that will touch every household. As I said earlier, when we engaged, I discussed with the electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) that packaged whatever they would require, if the government can give them, for us to allow for two months free electricity for Nigerians, they would be able to guarantee it”, he said.
Gbajabiamila spoke at the National Assembly on Saturday during a meeting between the National Assembly leadership and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmad, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, among others.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, in his opening remarks, noted that the meeting was a testimony of the commitment of both arms of government at addressing the issues holistically.
He assured that the Nigerian parliament would perform its constitutional roles towards ensuring that Nigerians benefit from all efforts aimed at mitigating the effects of the disease.
While noting that Nigerians must be assisted to weather the storm of the virus, Lawan added that critical decisions needed to be taken but must be legal, which makes it important that the legislature is part of the entire process.
Gbajabiamila said the country could not afford to be unprepared for the effect of Covid-19 on its economy. Explaining the necessity for the proposed stimulus bill for the electricity sector, the Speaker said electricity, being a commodity consumed by every household, has a greater effect on the people and that since more Nigerians are in the informal sector, the effects would be more felt by the economy.
On the need by the Executive arm to source for funds in the fight against Coronavirus and its socio-economic effects, the Speaker restated the determination of the National Assembly to partner the Executive in efforts aimed at mitigating the effects of the disease on Nigerians and the economy.
“Definitely, you will be taking loans from the Special Accounts, and as the Senate President said, it has to be backed by law, which again emphasizes the need to collaborate as earlier stated by the Minister. There has to be a collaboration. It cannot be a unilateral decision from the National Assembly; it can’t be a unilateral decision from the Executive; there has to be a collaboration. I’m glad that we are on that trajectory”, Gbajabiamila said.
The Minister for Finance, Zainab Ahmed said that the establishment of a N500bn Covid-19 Crisis Intervention Fund is in the works. The intervention fund will be utilized to finance the Federal Government’s support to state in improving their healthcare facilities and also finance the creation of a Special Public Works Programme
She also explained the need to revisit the 2020 national budget has become imperative.
“It has been established that Nigeria is currently facing significant fiscal risks due to the worsening global economic outlook. Specifically, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to the current global economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis; and exposed to the risks of both a pronounced decline in oil prices and spikes in risk aversion in the global capital markets”, she said.