Nigeria needs $330 million for coronavirus battle, turns to private sector

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria has appealed to private companies to make voluntary contributions towards the 120 billion naira ($330 million) the government says it needs to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

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“So far, the federal government has made giant strides in the fight but it is clear that the private sector needs to step in and support efforts already being made,” Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said.

The crash in oil prices, which have fallen by nearly two- thirds this year due in large part to a coronavirus-induced demand collapse, has seriously battered Nigeria’s finances.

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed this week pledged 6.5 billion naira to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, and a further 10 billion naira for Lagos state, which has the bulk of the nation’s confirmed cases.

“To procure all needed equipment, material, and all infrastructure needed to fight this pandemic, over N120b need to be raised,” Emefiele said.

He has formed a coalition led by the Aliko Dangote Foundation and Access Bank that is already working to raise funds.

On Friday, Nigeria’s state oil company NNPC pledged $30 million, with the help of 33 oil companies, including international majors Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil and Nigerian companies Oando, Lekoil and Seplat.

NNPC said it would offer more in partnership with downstream companies. That assistance, offered by companies, includes 200 ambulances, test kits and laboratory equipment, NNPC said in a tweet.

Bank UBA Group, led by Tony Elumelu, on Thursday pledged 1 billion naira to Nigeria as part of a broader 5 billion naira coronavirus donation. Other prominent Nigerians, including Dangote and five others, would ensure their organizations also contribute 1 billion naira each, Emefiele said.

As of Friday, Nigeria had 65 coronavirus cases and one death.

Reporting by Paul Carsen and Camillus Eboh, additional reporting by Libby George in Lagos; writing by Libby George; editing by Angus MacSwan, Larry King and Tom Brown