IMF says considering Nigeria's request for funds to fight pandemic

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday said it was considering Nigeria’s request for $3.4 billion in emergency financing to combat the impact of the new coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s biggest economy.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Nigeria’s economy was threatened by the twin shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and a sharp fall in international oil prices, and the country had asked for funding to help protect the most vulnerable people and companies.

“We are working hard to respond to this request so that a proposal can be considered by the IMF’s Executive Board as soon as possible,” Georgieva said in a statement.

Nigeria’s finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, on Monday said her government had requested a total of $6.9 billion from the IMF and other multilateral lenders. It is also seeking the suspension of debt-servicing obligations for 2020 and 2021 from multilateral lenders.

Georgieva said the Nigerian government was taking a number of measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus and its impact, and was working on an economic stimulus package that will help provide relief for affected households and businesses.

The emergency funding requested under the Fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument would allow the government to address additional and urgent balance of payments needs, and to direct funds to priority health expenditures, she added.

Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s biggest oil producer, Nigeria was still recovering from a recession caused by weak oil prices. It was rocked by a further drop in revenues in recent weeks.

The IMF has received requests for emergency financing help from over 90 countries, including many in Africa.

The IMF has said it has about $50 billion available from its emergency financing facilities to help countries cope with the crisis, and hopes to double the amount in coming weeks.

The World Bank has approved initial disbursements of $1.9 billion as part of a $14 billion emergency response package. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Dan Grebler)