President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday bemoaned the effect of coronavirus outbreak on Nigeria source of revenue.
According to a statement by Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, Buhari expressed his concerns over steep decline in oil prices when he hosted members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly Healthcare Professionals Associations (AHPA) at the presidential villa, on Tuesday.
During the visit, the union sought the president’s intervention in the adjustment of consolidated health salary structure (CONHESS).
The withheld April and May 2018 salaries of members, gazetting of scheme of service for nurses and restoration of teaching allowances among others are what union want the president to weigh in on.
Responding to their requests, Buhari implored the health workers to exercise patience with his administration to address their demands as the country battles the challenges posed by coronavirus to the economy.
He assured them that the government was looking into their issues with a view to resolving them and asked them to continue to work for the development of the country.
“Your case is certainly receiving attention, but you must bear in mind the condition that the country is in now. Coronavirus is not improving matters,” the president was quoted to have said.
“It is affecting what we very much depend on, the petroleum industry and therefore revenue.
“So, please try and help us with your people. Let us be patriotic, let us look at the ways and means of the government and appeal for restraint…We have to emphasise that it is very important we maintain cohesion together because if we allow sentiments or popularity to overwhelm our reasoning faculties, we will be in trouble and it will be too late for us to adjust, so please bear with us.”
The president added that his administration’s successful drive for food sufficiency in the last four years would come in handy with the drop in government revenue.
“We thank God; God is very sympathetic to us. The three previous rainy seasons were good. We had good foresight in getting fertiliser, making it available and we virtually achieved food security,” he said.
“We made good decisions, and we saved hundreds of millions of dollars on the importation of food. If not, we would have been in real trouble.
On Monday, Buhari set up a committee to review the 2020 budget crude oil benchmark following the falling crude oil price.
The 2020 budget was based on a crude oil benchmark of $57 per barrel with a production capacity of 2.1 million barrels per day and projected oil revenue of N2.64 trillion.
But the spread of the virus through more than 110 countries and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia has negatively affected the price of crude oil globally.
As of 4:20pm on Monday, crude oil was trading at $36.85 per barrel.
Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning, is to head the committee.
Other members are Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum; Mele Kyari, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and Clement Agba, minister of state for budget and national planning.