Nigeria asking multilateral lenders to fund coronavirus fight

International Monetary Fund
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Nigeria has requested a total of $6.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) to combat the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said on Monday. Zainab Ahmed said at a news conference in the capital, Abuja, that Nigeria requested $3.4 billion from the IMF, $2.5 billion from the World Bank and $1 billion from the AfDB.

Ahmed said Nigeria was one of several African countries seeking the suspension of debt-servicing obligations for 2020 and 2021 from multilateral lenders. She said the IMF support would not be tied to a formal programme and would not come with conditions attached since it was money Nigeria had already contributed to the Fund.

The IMF is making $50 billion available from its emergency financing facilities and some 80 countries have already asked for help, including about 20 from Africa. The World Bank has also approved a $14 billion COVID-19 response package. Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country and has the continent’s largest economy, has 232 confirmed cases of coronavirus and five deaths.

Lagos state, neighbouring Ogunstate and the capital territory of Abuja, entered a two-week lockdown last Monday aimed at stemming the spread of the virus. Ahmed said the outbreak poses “significant threats to the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian healthcare system and even to national security”, adding that “extraordinary measures are required as the situation evolves to address these challenges”. On Saturday the government said it planned to create a coronavirus fund to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure.

Ahmed at Monday’s news conference, said the president had approved the fund, and approval was being sought from lawmakers to borrow the money from special accounts.