…As CBN says CACOVID relief fund hits N21.5bn***
What was once described as ‘poisonous rice’ and reserved for IDPs may have been ‘sanctified’ as President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the distribution of 150 trucks of rice seized by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to the 36 states of the federation.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali had consistently warned Nigerians against patronising or eating foreign rice, stressing that Customs impound them, because they were expired and unfit for human consumption. Nigerians have nonetheless devoured the smuggled foreign rice with great relish!
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed who confirmed this while fielding questions from journalists at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, said the rice would cushion the pangs of hunger, as citizens STAY home, in compliance with Government’s total or partial lockdown.
The news conference was on the fiscal stimulus measures in response to COVID-19 pandemic and oil prices fiscal shock.
Ahmed said the seized trucks of rice had been handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management for onward distributions to Nigerians.
She added that in addition to this, the president had also approved the distribution of grains from strategic grain reserves across the country.
The minister stated that as part of the effort to support the farmers, the president also approved reduction of the price of fertilizer from N5,500 to N5,000 per bag.
She added that this was another measure to give subsidy to farmers in view with the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
According to her, more measures will be taken to provide broader benefits to citizens.
“We don’t want to rush and announce measures that will end up benefitting only a few of the segments. Our interest is to make sure that as much as possible a lot of Nigerians are productive and have liquidity in their hands.
“This will help to increase the consumption thereby assist to improve the economy.
“This is not something we will announce in a hurry without consulting with the central ministry and also without consulting with the key participants in the sector” she added.
The minister noted that the emerging health and economic risks resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic and decline in international oil prices posed existential threats to Nigeria’s economy, healthcare system, national security, as well as the lives of the citizens.
She emphasised that extra-ordinary measures would be required, as the situation evolved, to address these challenges.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has so far realised about N21.588 billion to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The update of the contribution as at April 6, was made known in a document released by Mr Isaac Okorafor, Director, Communications of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in Abuja on Monday.
The document showed that Modupe and Florunsho Alakija, Mike Adenuga and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) made donation of one billion naira each.
The CBN and Aliko Dangote were so far the highest contributors of two billion naira each.
Abdul Samad Rabiu (BUA Sugar Refinery), Segun Agbaje (GTB), Tony Elumelu (UBA), Oba Otudeko (First Bank), Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank), Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank) and Femi Otedola of Amperion Power Distribution donated one billion naira each to the fund.
Also Deji Adeleke of Pacific Holding Ltd made N500 million donation.
It will also be recalled that Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank Nigeria Ltd, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, ECOBank, African Steel Mills donated N250 million each and Multichoice Nigeria Limited contributed N200 million among others.