Responsible Governments around the world affected by the COVID- 19 pandemic have responded with policies and incentives to ameliorate what is widely accepted to be an impending recession that portends to be far deeper and longer-lasting than the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
This article highlights the key policy, regulatory and legislative actions recently taken to mitigate the adverse impact of COVID-19 by the Federal Government of Nigeria. These measures include special intervention funds, credit support facilities, regulatory forbearance, and tax reliefs. We should point out that there have been other reliefs provided by state governments and other subnationals. However, the information below is limited to reliefs and palliatives granted by the Federal Government and as such, apply throughout the federation.
1. CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA (CBN)
The CBN on March 16, 2020 in a move to preserve the stability of the Nigerian financial markets introduced certain policy measures by a circular, referenced: FPR/DIR/GEN/CIR/07/049 and titled “CBN Policy Measures in response to COVID-19 Outbreak and Spillovers”, which provides for the following:
I. Extension of moratorium for all CBN intervention facilities – With effect from March 1, 2020, all CBN intervention facilities have been granted additional one year on all principal repayments. In this regard, participating financial institutions are required to provide new amortization schedules for the beneficiaries of the various loans.
II. Reduction in the applicable interest rate on all CBN intervention facilities – Interest rates on all applicable CBN intervention facilities have been reduced from 9% to 5% per annum, with effect from March 1, 2020.
III Creation of a
N50 Billion Credit Facility – A N50b (Fifty billion Naira) facility has been created to provide support for households, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that are particularly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Credit facilities established through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, are available to other vulnerable entrepreneurs including hoteliers, airline service providers and healthcare merchants.
IV Creation of a
N 100 Billion Credit Support Scheme for the Health Sector – This was established for companies within the healthcare industry and is open to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and healthcare practitioners intending to expand/open their drug manufacturing plants in Nigeria or expand/build their health facilities to first class centers, as the case may be.
V Regulatory Forbearance – Deposit Money Banks (“DMBs”) have been given leave to extend temporary and time- limited restructuring of tenor and loan terms credits granted to businesses and households affected by COVID -19, particularly businesses in the oil & gas, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
VI. Strengthening of the CBN Loan/Deposit Ratio (LDR) – In order to sustain the successful implementation of the existing LDR Policy, the CBN will support funding levels to maintain DMBs’ capacity to direct credit to individuals, households and businesses. The CBN will also consider additional incentives to encourage extension of longer tenured credit facilities.
Further to the introduction of the aforementioned policy measures, the CBN issued two governing documents (“Implementation Guidelines”), prescribing the operational modalities for the
N50 Billion Targeted Credit Facility (Guidelines for the Implementation of the N50 Billion Targeted Credit Facility dated March 23, 2020 via a circular referenced; FPRD/DIR/GEN/CIR/07/050) and the N100 Billion Healthcare Credit Support Scheme (Guidelines for the Operations of the N100 Billion Credit Support for the Healthcare Sector dated March 25, 2020 via another circular referenced; FPR/DIR/GEN/CIR/07/051).
We have highlighted in the table below the operational modalities prescribed by the Implementation Guidelines:
|Eligible Participants||Households and enterprises with verifiable evidence of the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and enterprises with a bankable plan to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.||Manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment; Hospitals/clinics; Diagnostic centers/laboratories; Fitness & wellness centers; Rehabilitation centers; Dialysis centers; Blood banks and the like; Enterprises involved in pharmaceutical & medical products’ distribution and logistics services; and other enterprises in the human healthcare sector as may be determined by the CBN, from time to time.|
|Activities Covered||Agricultural value chain activities, Hospitality (accommodation & food services), Health (pharmaceuticals and medical supplies), Airline Service Providers, Manufacturing or Value addition, Trading, and any other income generating activities prescribed by the CBN.||Manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment; Distribution of medical & pharmaceutical drugs and supplies;Establishment/expansion/upgrade of basic and specialized healthcare facilities;Medical & pharmaceutical supplies;Manufacturing of distribution technology for medical & pharmaceutical drugs; Medical and pharmaceutical Research and Development (R&D); and any other healthcare value chain activity prescribed by the CBN.|
|Funding||The source of funding shall be the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF)||The source of funding for the Scheme shall be the Real Sector Support Facility – Differentiated Cash Reserves Requirement (RSSF-DCRR)|
|Participating Financial Institutions||NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (“NMFB”)||Deposit Money Banks (“DMBs”), and Development Finance Institutions (“DFIs”)|
|Loan Limit & Tenor||Maximum of ||Working Capital – 20% of the average of 3 years of an enterprise’s turn-over, subject to a maximum of |
|Interest Rate||5% per annum (all inclusive) up to 28th February 2021; and 9% per annum (all inclusive) as from 1st March 2021.||5% per annum (all inclusive) up to 28th February 2021; and 9% per annum (all inclusive) as from 1st March 2021.|
|Collateral Requirement||Movable assets duly registered with the National Collateral Registry, Deposit of Title documents (in perfectible state), Deed of Debenture for Stocks (in perfectible state), Irrevocable domiciliation of proceeds, Two acceptable guarantors, Personal guarantee of the promoter of the business, Life Insurance Policy and with NMFB as the First Loss Payee and Comprehensive Insurance Policy over the asset.||The collateral to be pledged by borrowers under the Scheme shall be as may be required under the RSSF-DCRR.|
|Repayment||On instalment basis according to the nature of the particular enterprise, and as contained in the repayment schedule or work plan provided at the application stage.||On instalment basis according to the approved repayment schedule.|
|Exit date||31st December, 2024||31st December, 2030|
2. EMERGENCY ECONOMIC STIMULUS BILL
The House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has proposed a bill titled the “Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020” (“the Bill”), for passage as an Act of the National Assembly.
The Bill, generally seeks to provide for reliefs on corporate tax, import duty on selected goods and deferral of residential mortgage obligations to the Federal Mortgage Banks and is a legislative response to the economic downturn occasioned by the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria.
The aims and objectives of the Bill include:
- Provision of temporary relief to companies and individuals to alleviate the adverse financial consequences of a slowdown in economic activities;
- Protection of 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;
- Provision for a moratorium on mortgage obligations for individuals at a time of widespread economic uncertainty;
- Elimination of additional fiscal bottlenecks on the importation of medical equipment, medicines, personal protection equipment, and other such medical necessities; as may be required for the treatment and management of the coronavirus disease in Nigeria; and
- Catering to the general financial wellbeing of Nigerians, pending the eradication of the Coronavirus pandemic and a return to economic stability.
Fiscal stimulus provided under the Bill:
I. 50%income tax rebate on the total of the actual amount of tax due or paid as Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) under the Personal Income Tax Act (“PITA”), for companies that maintain the same employee status, without retrenching their staff, as of 1st of March 2020 till 31st , December 2020. It should be noted that only employers duly registered under “Part A” and “Part B” of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (“CAMA”) are eligible to claim the tax rebate. The eligible employers, however exclude those that are subject, either partly or wholly, to the Petroleum Profit Tax Act any law reduction in number of employees due to death arising from natural causes, where the employee voluntary leaves the employment or has indicated interest to leave the employment before 1st March 2020, voluntary disengagement, or disengagement by virtue of a breach of the Labour Act are also exempted. The rebate period may be extended by the President subject to ratification by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, for such duration in which COVID-19 remains an urgent and severe public health emergency.
II. Deferral for a period of 180 days effective from 1st , March 2020, of the payment of all mortgage obligations on residential mortgages obtained by individual contributors to the National Housing Fund (“NHF”), notwithstanding the provisions of the NHF Act, 2018 or any other applicable law or regulation. The deferral may be extended by the President for a further period of 180 days, subject to a majority vote by members of the National Assembly.
III. Waiver of import duty on medical equipment, medicines, personal protection equipment and other such medical necessities as may be required for the treatment and management of the Coronavirus disease in Nigeria. The import duty waiver shall remain in force from the 1st March 2020 to 31st, December 2020 or any other time as may be extended by the President under the enabling law.
3. FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE SERVICE (FIRS) CONCESSIONS
In addition to the aforementioned measures, the FIRS is also offering the following palliatives as a way of limiting the impact of COVID-19 on taxpayers:
I. Extension of time for filing Value Added Tax and Withholding Tax from 21st to the last working day of the month, following the month of deduction.
II. The due date for filing Companies Income Tax returns has been extended by one month.
III. Taxpayers may file returns using unaudited accounts but must subsequently submit audited accounts within two months after the revised due date of filing.
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