Nigeria: Coronavirus - FG Seeks Approval of N500bn Loan for Intervention Fund

Social distancing is one of the proven measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, so we must learn to change our behaviour to save lives.

The federal government wants to create a N500 billion crisis intervention fund to help contain the rising cases of coronavirus across the country.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, presented an executive proposal to "establish a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund" during a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on Saturday.

The fund, she said, will involve mopping up resources from various special accounts of he government, to be able to pool the N500 billion.

In addition to the identified special accounts from where the money will be drawn as loans, the proposed intervention fund is also expected to be sourced from grants being expected and loans from multilateral institutions, she said.

"Our general view is that this crisis intervention fund is to be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities as earlier identified.

"The Federal Government also needs to be in a position to improve health care facilities not only in the states but to provide intervention to the states," she said.

Ms Ahmed said that the fund, if approved, will take care of special Public Work Programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment(NDE).

While she stressed the need for lawmakers to approve the taking of loans from these special accounts, she assured that the team will return "with a proposed bill in that regard that will define what the fund will be used for."

On his part, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said the loan request is critical because the country is in an emergency and time is of essence.

"So, we must work as expeditiously as possible to ensure that we place the request before the National Assembly," he said.

"I think time has come for us to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme, probably going out to communities to give them N20,000 per person might not be the best way to go. It is still an effort, but I think we need a better approach that will be more efficient."

Other donations

Prior to the loan request, many organisations and individuals have donated monetary and health facilities to help the government fight against the pandemic.

The presidential task force has received financial donations of over N15 billion naira so far.

Lawmakers and ministers have also contributed part of their salaries to the cause.

Although Mr Lawan promised speedy consideration of the loan request, it is unclear if the national assembly will reconvene for this cause.

The lawmakers had suspended plenary for two weeks to curb the spread of the disease as well as put in place, proper safety measures in the legislative complex.

Already, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a 14-day lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States to curb the spread of the virus. Many other states have imposed curfew too.

The number of confirmed cases in the country has been on the increase. As at Saturday, the NCDC announced a total of 209 cases including four deaths.

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