The federal government has earmarked N500billion as COVID-19 crisis intervention fund to tackle the global pandemic in the country.
Accordingly, the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, yesterday met with the leadership of the National Assembly to seek approval for the executive proposal to establish the intervention fund.
Ahmed, alongside senior officials from her ministry held the meeting with Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The meeting which held behind closed doors at the National Assembly complex was also attended by the deputy Senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy Speaker, Idris Wase and some other principal officers from both Chambers.
The meeting is sequel to the one held last week Wednesday between the National Assembly leadership and members of the presidential committee set up for the management of the COVID-19 crisis.
“What we are proposing is an establisment of a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund,” the minister told the National Assembly leaders.
“This Fund that we are proposing, that should be created, will involve mopping up resources from various special accounts that the government as well as the Federation have, to be able to pull this N500 billion,” the minister said.
Ahmed noted that in addition to the identified special accounts from where the money will be drawn as loans, the proposed intervention fund is also expected to be sourced from grants being expected and loans from multilateral institutions.
“Our general view is that this crisis intervention fund is to be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities as earlier identified. The federal government also needs to be in a position to improve health care facilities not only in the states but to provide intervention to the states,” she stated.
The minister explained to the lawmakers that the Fund, if approved, will also take care of special public work programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
“We know that there will be a need for the parliament to agree and approve the taking of loans from these special accounts and we will be coming back with a proposed bill in that regard that will define what the fund will be used for,” the minister said.
A statement issued by the special adviser on media to president of the Senate, Ola Awoniyi, had quoted the Senate president as observing that the meeting was in fulfillment of an earlier promise to provide support as the need arises in this time of crisis.
Lawan said, “Just like we told Nigerians, when there is need for us to meet or to take legislative action in support of ensuring that the government responds appropriately to developments issues and challenges in the country, we will do so.
“This meeting, the second in the series after we shut down the National Assembly for two weeks, is a clear testimony of what we have said.
“Governance requires that we work together, so we want to listen to those things that you have on your side and how we can also play our constitutional role in ensuring that Nigerians continue to benefit from governance and how we are able to weather the storm created by COVID-19.
“Going forward, we need to interact more because very fundamental decisions will need to be taken, and these decisions can only be said to be constitutionally legal if the legislature gives its stamp of authority for the executive to implement and execute.
“I think coming to us for those loans is critical because we are in an emergency and time is of essence. So, we must work as expeditiously as possible to ensure that we place the request before the National Assembly.
“I think time has come for us to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme, probably going out to communities to give them N20,000 per person might not be the best way to go. It is still an effort, but I think we need a better approach that will be more efficient”.
PDP CALLS FOR TRANSPARENCY
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday charged the National Assembly to comprehensively scrutinise the overall profile of the N500 billion proposed by the federal government as intervention fund against the COVID-19 pandemic so as to ensure that the fund reaches the desired target.
The party urged the legislature to examine the expenditure layout and put adequate clauses to eliminate diversion, ensure prudence as well as guarantee broad-based transparency in target-specific disbursements across all need areas in the fight against the pandemic.
The PDP noted that its call was predicated on apprehensions in the public space over allegations of fraudulent diversion of fund in the recent disbursement of N20,000 social palliatives, with many Nigerians rejecting the figures put out by the Federal Government.
The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, urged the National Assembly to ask the federal government to furnish it with details of how the N500billion would be spent; what amount would be spent on interventions on individuals and families as well as a template that guarantees that the fund gets to the targeted vulnerable Nigerians.
The PDP insisted that such information should also include details of what each state of the federation gets; the parameters for allocations, the monitoring system as well as foolproof measures to plug all loopholes and check fraud.
“The Federal Government needs to place these details before the National Assembly. This money, which is to be mopped up from various special government accounts, belongs to Nigerians. As such, the National Assembly must ensure that it is fully utilised for their wellbeing.”
The PDP further urged the National Assembly to instill checks and balances by providing that the implementation must involve trusted and transparent eminent Nigerians from the private sector to further guarantee accountability and overall confidence of Nigerians in the scheme.
NNPC DONATES ADDITIONAL N10BN TO FIGHT PANDEMIC
Meanwhile, minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has handed over five ambulances to Secretary to Government of the Federation, cum Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce for the Control of Coronavirus (Covid-19), Boss Mustapha.
A release yesterday Abuja by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Kennie Obateru, quoted the corporation’s Group Managing Director as saying that the ambulances marked the first installment of Industry collective donation of N11billion, now shored up to N21billion.
Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, an NNPC joint venture company partner, donated the ambulances.
Handing over the ambulances to Mustapha, the minister stated at the ceremony that the prevailing time was far from being normal, saying it was a time that called for collective efforts.
Sylva noted that the support for the cause was an ongoing one, saying that whatever is received afterwards would be delivered to the committee.
He said that the Oil and Gas Industry, under the leadership of NNPC, had come together to contribute their quota to the effort to stemming the pandemic.
Responding, SGF Mustapha applauded the NNPC and the entire Oil and Gas Industry for the maximum support extended to the Federal Government in the campaign against the pandemic.
Conducting the two top government officials round the 190-bed facility donated by the Petroleum Industry, NNPC GMD, Kyari stated that the Thisday Dome, Abuja that would house the bed-spaces was donated by yet another of NNPC partners, the Sahara Group.
He said other NNPC’s partners, local and international, continued to implement projects capable of lasting impact in their host communities as well as across the nation’s geographical zones, describing the feat as the hallmark of “Good Corporate Citizenship.”
“Aside from consignments of medical consumables and logistics facilities, we are embarking on construction of at least two permanent hospitals and a world class diagnostics centers in each of the geopolitical zones in the country. All these are over and above our regular social investments through various CSR initiatives”, Kyari added.
Mallam Kyari explained that the donation was collaborative, drawing support from the Energy Group, the private sector and a Chinese company, CCECC, to fight COVID-19 pandemic.
he NNPC helmsman disclosed that the 190-bed facility would be ready for use in two weeks’ time, stating that donations were in kind, that is, respective going concerns would provide the medical materials pledged following their companies’ procurement procedures.
At an NNPC property in Utako District of Abuja, Kyari announced that the corporation had set aside a 60-bed capacity facility of the property to support the fight against the pandemic.
The NNPC GMD said the facility, located in the heart of Abuja, would equally be ready in the next two weeks.
He explained that the Utako facility would be equipped with oxygen generating plants, ventilators and other medical logistics that would support the federal government ongoing fight against the spread of coronavirus pandemic, saying that it has 10 intensive care units that would serve as back up to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Isolation unit in Gwagwalada.
DEATH TOLL IN AFRICA HITS 269, CONFIRMED CASES RISE TO 6,860
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, has said there are now 6, 860 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on African continent with 269 deaths.
The UN’s health agency gave the update in its regional official twitter account @WHOAFRO.
“They are 6, 860 cases on the African continent, with 269 reported deaths as at Friday. WHOAFRO urges all member states to continue enhancing information sharing mechanisms so we can better support in their fight against COVID-19,” it said.
The agency said South Africa currently had the highest in the region with 1, 462 cases and five deaths, Algeria 986 cases with 83 deaths and Cameroon has 306 confirmed cases with seven deaths.
“Nigeria has 190 confirmed cases, 20 have been discharged with two deaths,’’ it stated.
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, has inaugurated online training for coronavirus (COVID-19) responders amid increasing lockdowns in Africa.
The UN’s health agency made this known on its regional official twitter account @WHOAFRO on Saturday.
“WHO launches online training for COVID-19 responders.This is to better train health workers, increase public health education and make communities safer”, it stated.
On the COVID-19 update, the UN health agency said the number of cases continued to rise on the African continent with 7,246 reported cumulative cases.
“There have been 269 associated deaths and 662 recoveries reported,” WHO added.
The agency said South Africa currently has the highest in the region with 1, 505 cases and seven deaths, followed by Algeria with 986 cases and 83 deaths and Cameroon has 306 confirmed cases with seven deaths.
“Nigeria has 210 confirmed cases, 20 have been discharged with two deaths,’’ it stated.
The agency, however, advised healthcare workers to practice good hygiene in health facilities to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
SECURITY OPERATIVES IMPOUND 51 CARS FOR VIOLATING LOCKDOWN ORDER
The Joint Operation Task -Team for the enforcement of presidential lockdown order on COVID-19 in FCT under the leadership of the FCT commissioner of Police, CP Bala Ciroma, has impounded 51 cars, nine tricycles and 46 motorcycles in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for violating the subsisting presidential lockdown directive aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spokesperson of the FCT Police Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, said the cars, tricycles and motorcycles, which were being used by their owners in violation of the presidential lockdown order, were impounded by the enforcement units of the Joint Operation Task Team on duty around Nyanya, Dutse Alhaji, Karu, Jabi, Kado, Life-camp, Mpape, Zuba and other parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The task team chairman, CP Bala Ciroma, warned that any car, tricycle or motorcycle impounded for violating the subsisting presidential order shall remain in police custody until the 14 days lockdown order was lifted by the federal government.
He said all FCT residents were expected to remain in their respective homes on Sunday, as violators would be arrested.
Inconvenience For 14 Days Better Than Months Of Burials, Northern Leaders Tell Nigerians
Meanwhile, some northern leaders have advised Nigerians to adhere strictly to the restriction order issued by the federal government, saying 14 days of inconvenience was far cheaper than months of burials.
The immediate past secretary general of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr Anthony Sani, who spoke on behalf of the Northern leaders, said many countries with large population were restricting the movement of their citizens.
Sani, while noting that 14 days of inconvenience was better than months of burials, urged Nigerians to bear the difficult times.
He said, “And this can only take place under the watch of national coordination. Disparate lockdowns by states may not be the best approach. Many countries have adopted uniform approaches across their nations. And if India with 1.3 billion people, most of whom are poor, can adopt uniform lockdown for 21 days, Nigeria can do it.
“Fourteen days of inconveniences and discomfort is much cheaper than many days, weeks or months under the agony of burying many deaths”.
COVID-19: FCTA Fumigates Abuja
The Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) through the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) in conjunction with the Nigeria Association of Pest Control Operators (NAPCO), FCT chapter, yesterday commenced the fumigation of Abuja, the nation’s capital.
During the flag off ceremony yesterday at Berger roundabout, Wuse, in FCT, the president of NAPCO, FCT chapter, Mr Terungwa Abari, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that they were out for the flag off ceremony to decontaminate the FCT.
Abari said the COVID-19 scourge was something that touches all, hence the need to deploy their skills and expertise to tackle the pandemic.
He added: “We are here to partner with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), to carry out the decontamination of the FCT, this is the flag off ceremony.
“This is an exercise for the FCT, and I believe other states should have similar exercises going on in their respective states. We intend to go round the whole of the FCT.
“COVID-19 pandemic is something that touches all of us. As an association, we are worried and we feel this is the time for us to bring out our expertise and skills, avail them to government to fight this battle.This is our way of supporting the government’s efforts to curtail this pandemic”.
The exercise was carried out under tight security, with heavily – armed policemen, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence (NSCDC), Fire Service personnel, joining workers of Julius Berger, Dantata and Sanwo as well as other companies specialised in fumigation services.