…Says main accounts domiciled in CBN
…As NASS leadership commends efforts so far
By Henry Umoru & Levinus Nwabughiogu
THE Federal Government warned yesterday that coronavirus may spread further in the country. It also said all the resources gathered in the wake of the pandemic would be mobilised for direct development and delivery of critical infrastructure to states by the donors, adding that they would also be used for direct procurement and delivery of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE and other critical equipment by donors.
Chairman, Presidential Taskforce, PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, disclosed these yesterday in Abuja while briefing the leadership of the National Assembly on the activities and efforts of the team at curbing the spread of the disease.
The SGF, who noted that the pandemic that posed a significant public emergency in 209 countries of the world with over 1.5 million cases, said: “The disease has placed considerable and significant strain on the global health care system and the economy of the world.
“Given the relentless exponential growth rate witnessed in other countries, the spread of the virus in the continent and in particular in Nigeria should be expected.
“The nation is at war against a very dangerous, unseen and ubiquitous enemy and all hands must be on deck to successfully prosecute the war.’’
He said the virus has spread to no fewer than 16 states, with six deaths, warning that there should be “no illusion that this case affects all and it is on all of us to play our part in solving this.”
The SGF added that the weakness in world health systems had been exposed by the pandemic, stressing that “the plan therefore is to lay a legacy foundation for the immediate, medium- and long-term development of the health system.”
Mustapha urged the National Assembly to develop a legislative framework to prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic and reformation of the country’s healthcare systems.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari gave the PTF the powers to work out modalities to contain the spread of the disease.
He listed its achievements so far to include “ high level political and multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms for preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic with consequent improvement in inter-ministerial and inter-agency coordination and collaboration.’’
Speaking further, he said: “The PTF has achieved high level coordination of the United Nations agencies and other bilateral and multilateral partners, foundations and international bodies involved in the response, resulting in a common United Nations Basket Fund; accelerated procurement systems for good and services and attraction of donations from global philanthropists including Jack Ma as well as many corporate bodies operating in Nigeria.
“High level engagement with the organized private sector with better coordination of their core competencies and expertise, especially CACOVID/CBN COVID19 Response Fund and engagement with Nigerian Economic Summit Group.
“Mobilization of the states and local government areas resources in preparation for the possible spread of the disease into communities, including State Needs Assessment and state of preparedness.
“Stimulating economic national interests to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic including engagement of local manufacturers across board for the stimulation of local production of essential commodities to reduce dependence of imported commodities particularly local production of face masks, hand sanitizers, protective gear among others.
“Critical review of state of health systems in local states and the FCT, including improved surveillance system, and identification of available capacities for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients which has yielded over 1000 beds across facilities.’’
Mustapha said the PTF had been working in conjunction with states, especially on testing, detection, isolation, contact tracing and management of coronavirus cases.
On funds raised so far for the fight against the pandemic, the SGF said the PTF would not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations, saying the main accounts were domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
He said: “The Accountant General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through five 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.’’
He also told the federal lawmakers that President Muhammadu Buhari had already noted the impact of the disease on the economy and the vulnerable in the society, saying it was for that reason he set up a team, headed by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed. To address the impact of the pandemic.
According to him, the same applied to the economic sustainability committee, headed by the Vice President; a stimulus package of over N500 billion; the employment of 774,000 Nigerians; payment of Conditional Cash Transfer under the Social Safety Net Programmes; continuation of the School Feeding Programme to sustain its nutritional value; the release of 70MT of grains from the strategic reserve for distribution in Lagos and Ogun states, the FCT, as well as the 13 frontline states and release of 150 trucks of seized rice and other commodities for distribution to the poor.
NASS leaders react
In their responses, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, commended the SGF for displaying high level of competence on the job.
Lawan was particularly excited by the level of coordination of all the stakeholders in the fight against the pandemic and the daily briefings which clearly kept Nigerians in the know of the national emergency strategies.
He called for the harmonisation of the funds contributed by organisations and individuals for accountability.
Lawan said: ”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 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.
“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 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.
“I believe 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, 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.”