Governments and the COVID-19 billions

SINCE the Covid-19 global pandemic touched down in Nigeria in late February, there have been concerted efforts by the private and public sectors to mobilise resources to contain its spread. As early as March 26, the Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) emerged to mobilise private sector leadership and resources to support health facilities to respond to the crisis, to increase public awareness about the pandemic, and to extend testing to at least two million people. Donations to the CACOVID relief fund totaled over N28bn as of May 6, with the chairman of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) donating N2bn each.

For the public sector, the Federal Government initially released N15 billion to both the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Lagos State, the epicentre of the outbreak. It promised that relief materials would be provided for residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around the affected states. Then on March 16, the CBN announced a series of measures, including N100 billion intervention fund in healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand or build capacity. It also included N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors. Another N50 billion was targeted at households and micro and small enterprises. At the state level, governors have claimed that they have spent billions of naira on the effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.

While Nigerians are excited about the concerted efforts and commitment by the various governments to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, they have expressed distrust about the use of the resources so far committed to dealing with it. This is largely because of previous experiences with government officials who are notorious for mismanaging public resources. Nigerians want the government to demonstrate transparency and accountability in utilising the resources. They insist that government officials and politicians should not use the global pandemic as a means of self-enrichment.  This is particularly so because of the grave consequences it would have on the effort to contain the pandemic and on the poor who face direct threats to their livelihoods and are supposed to benefit from the funds that have been earmarked as palliatives for them. A large number of citizens have been under one form of restriction or another, and not a few persons have been rendered incapable of pursuing their sources of daily bread. They have faced hunger. If resources are effectively channeled, the outcome will be quick success in the effort to contain the various and ameliorate the consequences of lockdowns and restrictions on livelihoods and small businesses.

We note that while updates are being given to Nigerians on the activities of the government to contain the spread of the virus, these have not been accompanied by information on spending. It is important that reporting on government activities be accompanied with explanations on the use of the donated funds. In response to demands  for fund accountability by civil society organisations and the media, on May 5, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation issued guidelines for the management of Covid-19 funds in Nigeria. It mandated prompt response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests as one of the conditions for spending the funds dedicated to fighting Covid-19 in the country, including mitigation of its social and economic effects on Nigerians. The guidelines contained seven other items, namely that, among others, the Accountant-General of the Federation must publicise on a daily basis, all inflows and outflows for the funds, and the statement must show the source of the outflow. The funds are not to be disbursed without appropriation by the National Assembly as a supplementary budget with detailed needs submitted by the affected Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) together with estimated costs as the basis for allocation of funds, to enable post-expenditure reporting and audit.

While we urge public officials to follow these guidelines, we urge them not to use the transparency and accountability requirement to derail or slow down the pace of work being done. We also note that expenditure on Covid-19 is not confined to the Federal Government. Already, some state governors have claimed that they spent billions of naira on the Covid-19 effort without providing details on how these expenditures were incurred. We call on state governments and local governments to follow the example of the Federal Government by providing guidelines on the expenditure and accountability procedures for the Covid-19 intervention. We hope transparent and accountable use of public resources will enable civil society and the media to follow the money and ensure that it is effectively administered according to the purposes stipulated and advertised.





Buy and read digital replicas of your TRIBUNE titles by subscribing through E-VENDING

COVID-19: 950 More Nigerian Children Under Five Could Die Daily Without Urgent Action ― UNICEF
It has been observed that unless urgent actions are taken, an additional 950 Nigerian children, mostly under-five years, could die daily from preventable causes over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts routine services and threatens to weaken the health system… Read full story

WHO Warns Coronavirus May Never Go Away As Toll Nears 300,000
The coronavirus may never go away and populations will have to learn to live with it just as they have HIV, the World Health Organization has warned, as the global death toll from the disease nears 300,000. There were also gloomy forecasts from the US Federal Reserve, which said prolonged shutdowns to stem… Read full story

COVID-19: When Eye Glasses Become Important
SCIENTISTS are still deep in the research process of uncovering all the ways in which COVID-19 can be transmitted. Now, in a new study, researchers at the University of Hong Kong have found eyes are ‘important route’ for coronavirus. The findings are challenging the widely held assumption in the earliest stages of the… Read full story

Why We Rejected Zoom Meeting With FG —ASUU President
The president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, has explained why the union refused to hold meeting via Zoom platform with the Federal Government’s representatives, saying such meeting would not yield any tangible result as it would be difficult to control… Read full story

How 13 Members Of Crime Group, Shila Boys, Landed In Adamawa Police Net
Thirteen members of a crime group in Adamawa State known as Shila Boys were on Wednesday, May 13, paraded after they were arrested for attacking residents of the state. The newly-established Task Force to fight against crime in the state arrested the 13 members and recovered weapons as well as tricycles… Read full story

Why FG Should Stop Working Against Domestic Airlines
If there is anything that is standing for the governments in places like America, Europe, Asia and Middle East and other developed nations of the world, that thing is patriotism and the over protectionism policy of the governments of these nations when it comes to their own things… Read full story

Six Opposition Party Members Arrested For Distributing Face Masks In Cameroon Market
Six members of Cameroon’s opposition party, the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), have been arrested for distributing face masks and hand sanitisers in the capital, Yaoundé. The six men were picked up at the Mokolo market, one of the largest in the country… Read full story

Pandemics In History: Was Nigeria Prepared For Covid-19? (2)
LAST week, some patients who had been isolated from the rest of society on account of coronavirus infection in Gombe State reportedly vacated the Federal Teaching Hospital in Gombe, the state capital, to protest the poor state of facilities and treatment. Earlier, patients in the Kwadom Infectious Disease Hospital in the… Read full story

COVID-19 Isn’t Just A Respiratory Disease, It Affects The Whole Body
The patient had been relatively fine for the first 10 days he was down with COVID-19. Just 38, he didn’t fit the description of people at high risk of complications from the new coronavirus. “He had mild pulmonary symptoms that he was just sitting at home with,” said Dr Sean Wengerter, a vascular surgeon in Pomona… Read full story

EDITORIAL: The Protests By Covid-19 Patients In Gombe
LAST week, some patients who had been isolated from the rest of society on account of coronavirus infection in Gombe State reportedly vacated the Federal Teaching Hospital in Gombe, the state capital, to protest the poor state of facilities and treatment. Earlier, patients in the Kwadom Infectious Disease Hospital in the… Read full story

How Children Were Separated During Playtime In ‘Chalk Isolation Boxes’ As Schools Resume In France
Some heart-breaking photographs of nursery school children forced to play in ‘isolation sections’ in French schools have caused shock and outrage, the Daily Mail of UK has reported. The photos, taken in the town of Tourcoing on the border with Belgium, show boys and girls forced to stay away from each other inside areas… Read full story

Ooni Of Ife To Partner Afe Babalola Varsity To Produce Drugs, Vaccines For Coronavirus, Others
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, has concluded plans to partner with Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) on a clinical research aimed at developing drugs and vaccines for viral infections with special focus on coronavirus pandemic… Read full story

You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More