The Federal Government has denied mismanaging the COVID-19 funds, saying the funds were judiciously used to takcke the waves of the coronavirus in the country.
The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, said this on Thursday at the COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) Conference organised by the Connected Development (CODE), BudgIT, Action Aid Nigeria (AAN) and other civil society organisation (CSOs) in Abuja.
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The minister who spoke virtually, told the forum, attended by stakeholders, that so far, of the N500bn COVID-19 funds, N288bn has been released to implementing agencies to support programmes.
According to him, the Federal Government is now in the process of releasing additional sums to the implementing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“The total package includes N500bn stimulus from special federal government account in the budget, and a N1.8trn through financial institutions.
“From the N500bn stimuli from the reversed 2020 budget there is provision of N126bn to build resilience health system in Nigeria to prevent possible loss of lives,” Agba said.
He added that the government set out to improve health infrastructure by building molecular laboratories in 52 federal medical centres and teaching hospitals across the country.
He said that a total of 522 ICU beds were provided amounting to 10 ICU beds in each of the 52 federal medical centers and teaching hospitals across the country.
He said that the Federal Government also took measures to support states’ response to the pandemic adding that in the first instance, 50 percent of the N500bn was released to the various responsible agencies.
He said that each of the 36 states including the FCT were given N1bn to help fight COVID-19 except for Lagos State that got N10bin and Kano that got N5bn due to their populations.
He said, “Most of the MDAs received at least 50 percent of the budget for projects, like Ministry of Agriculture which has N34bn as budget for rural roads was given 50 percent of that amount and they were also given 50 percent of the amount for land preparation which is N1.25bn.
The minister said that the president directed the disbursement of COVID-19 cash transfer to additional one million households as part of the social intervention programmes to protect the vulnerable adding that the register was being updated with the new households ahead of disbursement.
He said that there was provision for the aviation sector with support to local airlines as well as other aviation businesses and also provision for post-COVID job creation schemes for youths and women.
While clarifying some misconceptions about Nigeria’s stimulus response to COVID-19, the minister said that it was false, that Nigeria received $5.6bn as donations towards COVID-19.
He said, “The pandemic impacted the global oil market which reduced Nigeria’s revenue by about 57 percent due to reduced oil price.
“Nigeria obtained these loans of $5.6bn from the World Bank, the IMF, the Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank as budget financing for the revenue shortfall so they were not donations.
“The N2.3trn stimulus package comprises the N500bn stimulus from special federal government account in the reversed 2020 budget and N1.8trn through CBN interventions to the private sector to stimulate the economy.
“So the 1.8trn are not funds that are going to MDAs ,they are meant for the private sector.’’
Some of the leaders of the CSOs bemoaned the non-accountable and non-transparent way the Federal and state governments handle the COVID-19 funds and other interventions.
They cited the cases of the food items and other palliatives exposed in ware houses during the #EndSARS protests.
Speaking on the issues, the Chief Executive Officer, CODE, Hamzat B. Lawal, said that the conference was organised with other partners to examine the role of state actors, stakeholders, CSOs and citizens in the accountability process of the COVID-19 intervention funds.
Lawal said that the CSOs were concerned with expenditure knowing that there was a short fall of revenue and knowing that there was increase in unemployment due to the impacts of the pandemic.
According to him, data revealed that there was an increase in loan from both IMF and other multilaterals.
He said, “We have not seen a clear-cut strategy from government on how these loans would be repaid. There had not been any meeting like this that brought key stakeholders particularly government officials saddled with the responsibility to oversee the disbursement of COVID-19 resources together.
“So I am excited that CODE in partnership with BudgiT is able to bring stakeholders together and get government officials to answer critical questions to provide directions because with the advent of fake news and misinformation it is pertinent that government is able to respond proactively to provide timely information for citizens so that we can remain united as we fight the pandemic.”