The House Representatives at its plenary session of Tuesday, 24 March 2020, passed the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill, 2020 which seeks to provide relief, protect jobs and alleviate the financial burdens on citizens’ in response to the outbreak of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
Leading the debate on the Bill, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC: Lagos) stated that the Bill was aimed at mitigating the devastating effect of the pandemic by giving tax relief to corporate bodies, providing mortgage systems, suspending import duties on medical equipment, medicines and personnel protective gears for the treatment of COVID-19.
Hon. Gbajabiamila elaborated on the objectives of the proposed legislation to include:
- Providing temporary relief to companies and individuals to alleviate the adverse financial consequences of a slowdown in economic activities brought on by the outbreak of the COVID– 19 disease in Nigeria;
- Protecting the employment status of Nigerians who might otherwise become unemployed as a consequence of management decision to retrench personnel in response to the prevailing economic realities;
- Eliminating additional fiscal bottlenecks on the importation of medical equipment, medicines, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other such medical necessities as may be required for the treatment and management of the Covid – 19 Disease in Nigeria, to ease the burden of importation; and
- Catering for the general financial wellbeing of Nigerians pending the eradication of the pandemic and return to economic stability.
Lastly, he commended the efforts of the Federal Government and other stakeholders in the private sector on initiatives and measures put in place to curtail the spread of the virus. The Bill which was unanimously adopted by lawmakers was subsequently referred to the Committee of the Whole for consideration where amendments were made to clauses 9 and 12 which deal with “Deferral of Payment of Mortgages under the National Housing Fund” and “Import Duty Waiver on Medicines and Medical Goods” respectively.
The clauses as amended grants the National Assembly powers to approve an extension of deferral of mortgage payments made under the National Housing Fund when requested by the President and provides a termination date for import duty waiver on medicines and medical goods for 30th June 2020 as against 31 December 2020 as originally provided in the proposed Bill.