Nigeria: Private Sector Coalition Targets N120 Billion to Overcome COVID-19

27 March 2020

Leading players in the private sector have coalesced under the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, to mobilise resources to support the concerted efforts by the federation to fight the pandemic that has spread to eight states.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who broke the news of the formation of the coalition at a media briefing in Lagos yesterday said it planned to raise N120 billion for the acquisition of healthcare facilities for advocacy about the virus across the country, among others.

According to Emefiele, the objective of the coalition is to mobilise private sector thought leadership, mobilise private sector resources, increase general public awareness, education, and buy-in, provide direct support to private and public healthcare ability to respond to the crisis as well as support the federal government's efforts.

He said: "In response to the impact of the COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy, the CBN has in the last few days begun engaging Nigerian compatriots and stakeholders in the private sector on how to provide support to the Nigerian government in procuring equipment, funding and materials to combat the menace of this unfortunate pandemic in Nigeria."

According to Emefiele, although the number of cases so far in the country stood at 51 as of thursday, the private sector leaders were concerned that the number might rise exponentially in the next few weeks.

He added that Nigeria must prepare for the worst in responding.

Emefiele said the CBN, on behalf of the Bankers' Committee and in partnership with the private sector led by the Dangote Foundation and Access Bank, came together to form the Nigeria Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.

"This coalition was created out of the urgent need to combat the unfolding COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria. The rate at which the virus is spreading is unprecedented and it appears we are fighting our most lethal adversary today.

"So far, the federal government has made strides in the fight, but, it is clear that the private sector needs to step in to support efforts being made," the CBN governor said.

Emefiele explained that four major committees have been set up which include the Steering Committee; the Funding Committee; Operational Committee and the Technical Committee.

"Steering Committee to provide leadership and steer the coalition and committees in procuring all needed funding, equipment and materials for the battle against this pandemic.

"The steering committee will be chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who currently chairs the Federal Government Committee on Covid-19. Other members of the committee will be announced later.

"The second one is the Funding Committee. This committee will be responsible for the initial funding of this effort. Membership comprises the CBN, Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Segun Agbaje, Abdulsamad Rabiu, and Femi Otedola.

"Each member of this committee is expected to contribute at least N1 billion to this effort. More members are invited and allowed as long as they are willing to contribute N1 billion," he added.

Emefiele said the Operational Committee would be responsible for project management, logistics, communication and advocacy.

He said: "This comprises the CBN, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTBank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank and Nigerian Breweries.

"We held a video conference with the Bankers' Committee this morning and membership of this committee was agreed during the video conference meeting.

"The fourth is the Technical Committee. This Committee is responsible for gathering data about the equipment and materials needed nationwide. They will also be responsible for intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols, isolation centers, etc.

"Membership Comprised of National Centre for Disease Control, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health and select members of the operational and funding committee."

According to him, the coalition will be working with reputable institutions and consultants, including the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Dr. Christian Happi and Dr. Phillip Onyebujo.

Emefiele said information gathered so far revealed that to procure all needed equipment, material and all infrastructures needed to fight the pandemic, "over N120 billion needs to be raised."

He said the Bankers Committee and the stakeholders would be required to step up to support this endeavour.

"We are already engaging other important stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad, such as the NNPC and players in the oil industry.

"An account will be set up at the Central Bank of Nigeria to receive both naira and foreign currency from our donors.

"The Technical Committee will be providing information about the venue where equipment and materials will be received just for those who wish to donate materials and equipment.

"They have made a commitment to provide funding, equipment, and material as well," Emefiele added.

He assured Nigerians that at the end of the process, reputable accountants would be engaged to account for how the funds were utilised as well as account for the materials donated.

"The need for all Nigerians to play a role in this fight cannot be understated as we are quite literally in the fight of our lives. I must highlight the fact that this is not just about bringing money. Your time, your services, your products will all be helpful.

"The committee has already begun work and we will keep you updated of our progress," he said.

Responding to a question about private sector organisations that may not have up to N1 billion but would be willing to contribute, Emefiele said: "If you want to contribute N1, we would receive; if you want to contribute N1 billion or more, we would receive the fund and we assure you that we would account for it.

"But what we are saying is that we have created a core group who would like to be identified that they are in the funding committee.

"Naturally, what you expect is that practically everybody would want to be in that committee. But we are saying that to be a member of that committee, you must be somebody who is willing to contribute at least N1 billion," he said.

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