Nigeria seeks billions from lenders over virus

Nigeria seeks billions from lenders over virus

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

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ABUJA, Nigeria (AFP) — Nigeria has asked for US$6.9 billion from multilateral lenders, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, to tackle the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, its finance minister said Monday.

Africa's most populous nation and biggest oil producer is battling to halt the spread of the virus and staunch the economic pain caused by a slump in crude prices.

“We have a contribution of US$3.4 billion in the IMF and we are entitled to draw up to the whole of that,” Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told journalists.

“We have, in the first instance, applied for that maximum amount but in the process, we will negotiate.”

Ahmed said Nigeria, which boasts the continent's biggest economy, had also requested US$2.5 billion from the World Bank and US$1 billion from the African Development Bank.

The Government has said it is planning to establish a US$1.3-billion fund to bolster the country's weak health care system.

But that comes at a time when officials are being forced to cut the national budget for this year, after the collapse in oil prices gutted State revenues.

Ratings agency Fitch on Monday said it was downgrading Nigeria's long-term foreign currency-issuer default rating to 'B' and classing its outlook as negative.

“Intensifying external pressures raises risks of disruptive macroeconomic adjustment,” the agency said.

Nigeria up to Monday had so far recorded 232 confirmed infections and five deaths from the novel coronavirus.

The authorities have placed economic hub Lagos and the capital Abuja in lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

The country is seen as particularly vulnerable to the spread of the disease, given its poor health facilities and high population density.

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