The federal government has stated that it should be commended for keeping the Nigerian economy growing in the face of “very, very challenging circumstances” caused by low revenue, inflation, COVID-19, and other factors.
Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, told reporters following the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja on Wednesday that the drop in earnings from the sale of crude oil reduced the pool of funds available for the government to work optimally.
She said despite this challenge, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has provided the infrastructure that has helped to lead the economy on a growth path.
“I need to remind us all here that in 2015, the administration came on and met a crisis in the oil and gas sector; we had the first slump in crude oil prices and a very significant slump in crude oil production.
“There was a time the volumes went as low as one million barrels per day. We were able to take measures to reflate the economy and exit the recession within three quarters. By the fourth quarter, we were out of recession.
“Secondly, we had a second recession due to COVID-19. That was even a shorter recession; we now see up to five quarters of positive growth.
So, the economy has been growing, despite very, very difficult circumstances.
“The other thing I need to remind us is that this administration has been able to realize the lowest oil and gas revenue, compared to all previous administrations, but it has also been able to do much more in infrastructure deployment. So, the administration has done well,” Mrs Ahmed said.
The Minister, while also answering questions surrounding the depletion of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to less than half a million Dollars from over $35 million last month, said the money was used to secure the country and not spent lavishly.
“On the issue of the Excess Crude Account, in the past four years, we have not had accrual to the account because of volatility in the oil market.
“So, what we have had has been gradually used up for different purposes, and it is always used in consultation with the National Economic Council (NEC), that is, the governors because this is a federation account.
“The last approval given by the council was the withdrawal of $1 billion to enhance security. We have been utilizing that.
“The last tranche of that has been finally released because deployment to security agencies is based on the contracts executed and it’s been used strictly for that security purpose. So, the account utilisation is with the full knowledge of the governors,” she stated.