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How we spent COVID-19 funds so far- FG

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How COVID-19 pandemic opened up immense talents of Nigerian scientists - BuhariPrince Clem Agba, Minister of State, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, on Thursday gave a breakdown of the COVID-19 expenditure in the country.

Agba revealed this at the COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) Conference organised by Connected Development (CODE) in partnership with BudgIT civil society organisation in Abuja.

According to Agba, of the N500 billion COVID-19 funds, N288billion has been released to implementing agencies to support programmes and Federal Government, while the Ministry is now in the process of releasing additional sum to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“The total package includes, N500billion stimulus from special federal government account in the budget, and a N1.8 trillion through financial institutions.

“From the N500 billion stimuli from the revised 2020 budget there is provision of 126 billion to build resilience health system in Nigeria to prevent possible loss of lives.

“The government set out to improve health infrastructure by building molecular labs in 52 federal medical centres and teaching hospitals across the country.

“Others include provision of isolation centres, paying hazard allowance for health professionals, providing personal protective equipment for security agencies and hospitals to continue their operations supporting agencies like the NCDC, NAFDAC among others to play their roles in combating this pandemic.’’

Agba 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 respond to the pandemic, adding that in the first instance, 50 per cent of the 500 billion was released to the various responsible agencies.

He added that each of the 36 states including the FCT were given a billion Naira to help fight COVID-19 except for Lagos that got 10 billion and Kano that got 5 billion due to their population.

“Most of the MDAs received at least 50 per cent of the budget for projects, like Ministry of Agriculture which has N34 billion as budget for rural roads was given 50 per cent of that amount and they were also given 50 per cent of the amount for land preparation which is N1.25 billion.

“The mass rural electrification and solar power strategy had N6.2 billion released to them FERMA received 30 billion for bridges and major roads, Ministry of Trade and Investment got N75 billion MSME programmes, while federal medical centres with about N49 billion budget received 50 per cent of that amount allocated .’’

Agba said that the government also put all loan repayment by the various state governments on hold, this included repayment of both the principal loan and the accrued interest.

He said that this was to stimulate the economy and prevent job loss, adding that the plan included supporting micro small and medium enterprises through survival funds .

He said that this provision included MSME guaranteed uptake simulation scheme that was to sustain 300,000 jobs in 100,000 MSME by generating uptake and priority products ,extending payroll supports and establishing facilities in all six geopolitical zones.

He said that the establishment of the MSME survival fund was to also sustain 700,000 jobs in 140,000 MSME and 1500 self employed individuals through grants in all six geo political zones.

Agba said that the government also provided over 12 billion mass rural electrification and solar power and N60 billion for road construction and rehabilitation across the country.

He added that the public works programmes recruited 1000 persons per local government for the 36 states and the FCT resulting in 774,000 persons being employed.

He said that the president directed the disbursement of COVID-19  cash transfer to additional 1million 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 business and also provision for post COVID job creation schemes for youths and women .

Agba said that there were provisions targeted at the agric sector to  ensure food and job security and to achieve this, government plans included mapping of farms and farmers registration, site sampling and creating access roads to markets among others.

He said that this took the form of building more than 300 roads across 266 agro communities for access.

Agba also took timeout to clarify some misconception about Nigeria’s stimulus response to COVID-19 .

“It  is false, that Nigeria received 5.6 billion dollars as donations towards COVID-19, you know, the pandemic impacted the global oil market which reduced Nigeria’s revenue by about 57 per cent due to reduced oil price.

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“Nigeria obtained these loans of 5.6 billion dollars 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 2.3 trillion stimulus package comprise the N500 billion stimulus from special federal government account in the reversed 2020 budget and N1.8 trillion through CBN interventions to the private sector to stimulate the economy.

“So the 1.8 trillion are not funds that are going to MDAs ,they are meant for the private sector.’’

Agba said that other donations in kind, received by the federal government included personal protective equipment ,test kits and 200 ventilations as bilateral support .

He said that the president approved the release of 70,000 tons of food from the federal strategic grain reserve and they were distributed to state governments as palliatives for distribution to citizens .

He, therefore, said that it should not be said that federal government was involved in the hoarding of palliatives.

Agba said that the Federal Government had ensured that several accountability mechanisms were put in place to guarantee the proper utilisation of these funds and an app was being developed to help citizens keep abreast with the utilization of these funds.

Chief Executive Officer, CODE, Hamzat Lawal, said that the conference was organised in partnership with BudgiT ,to point the torch on the role of state actors, stakeholders, civil society organisations and citizens in the accountability process of the COVID-19 intervention Funds.

Lawal said that  CSOs were very much concerned with expenditure knowing that there was a short fall of revenue and knowing that there was increase in unemployment.

He said that data revealed that there was an increase in loan both from IMF and other multilaterals adding that “we have not seen a clear cut strategy from government on how these loans would be paid.

“How the government is engaging young people and how are they planning to pay back the loan, how is the government using this loan?

“ We are not satisfied with the implementation of COVID-19 funds and how the government is providing palliatives and stimulus plans, when you put side by side the resources released and what is happening on ground definitely we are not satisfied.’’

Lawal expressed hope that deliberations at the conference would go a long way to amend some things , because since  the beginning of the COVID-19 ,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 answer critical questions to provide directions .

“This is 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.’’(NAN)

Vanguard News Nigeria

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