President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has advised the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 led by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha to ensure judicious use of fund dedicated to combat the pandemic.
He gave the charge on Thursday at a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and members of the PTF.
Tribune Online reports that eminent citizens and corporate organisations have made donations to the COVID-19 accounts to be domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Senator Lawan advised the PTF which is the central body coordinating activities of all agencies related to the control of the pandemic to be extra vigilant with the finances by ensuring that there were no multiple accounts.
He said: “I believe that we face one critical challenge today in our fight against COVID-19. We have donations made by various organisations, corporate bodies and so on but it is my candid opinion that there is no coordination.
“The Corporate Nigera, as I was told as at yesterday (Wednesday), has gathered N22 billion, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), I was told had 28 million dollars, CBN and the banks, I don’t know how much they have. The National Assembly, the ministers and so many individuals and institutions have also made donations.
“I believe we must have a central body and not the PTF nor the corporate groups should receive and manage the funds but based on what the constitution provides for.
“Where everybody is just collecting and spending, I think it will lead us in a very bad shape. When people contribute their funds, they want to see such funds properly utilised. They want to see efficiency. They want to see transparency. They want to see accountability and of course, probity in what the funds are used for.
“There could be duplication, working across purposes. At the end of the day, there will certainly be inefficiency in the application of such resources. But this meeting is going to give us an opportunity to discuss this and the way forward.”
While thanking the team for its diligence, President of the Senate said the essence of the meeting was to get feedback from the PTF and the area of cooperation and assistance expected from the National Assembly.
He further advised the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to show more than passing interest in development at the states for effective coordination.
“But let me also say that this is a partnership. As you work from that side of government, we are to work with you from this side and it will take the two arms, particularly the Executive and Legislature, to implement the kind of efforts to manage and control the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
“So I want to commend you for the work you have been doing. I want to also take this opportunity to commend the Nigerian medical personnel. They have been doing quite a lot and of course commend Nigerians for showing understanding and supporting the government in its effort to manage and control the coronavirus.
“Let me also commend those who have made donations for the government to have the resources to address this situation and also those who have been praying in our mosques, in our churches for the intervention of the Almighty God.
“I believe that there are certain things that we need to do and this is the right forum to air my views about them.
“First of all, you are supposed to be the custodian of all the challenges that we face as far as COVID-19 is concerned. If any state has a challenge, I am sure there is a proper structure and route for reporting, so that you take down the situation and take the necessary steps.
“So I want to appeal to all Nigerians across the states that this is where we should report our cases to until such a time when other avenues will be clearly stipulated.
“I also believe that you will know better what we need, where, as far as COVID-19 challenge is concerned and therefore, you will be the one to put the request for the Intervention by the Federal Government.”
Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha allayed the fears of the National Assembly over mismanagement of the fund as he noted that the Task Force would not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations for COVID-19.
“The Accountant General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through some commercial banks and also provided the modalities for its utilisation.
“All the main COVID-19 accounts shall be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria. However, all non-cash donations shall be duly received by the PTF, acknowledged, documented and appropriately deployed.”