Nigeria: How We'll Utilise Donated Funds - COVID-19 Task Force

The Nigerian government plans to overhaul the country's health system in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic across the country, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has said.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who is also the chairman of the task force, made this known during a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on Thursday.

He noted that the pandemic has provided the opportunity to examine the state of the national healthcare systems "which is in dire need of reforms and funding."

He said the weaknesses in Nigeria's health systems became more glaring given the way more established health systems in Europe and America collapsed under pressure.

To this end, he said, the taskforce has proposed to utilise the resources being mobilised in a more "strategic manner."

These include, "direct development and delivery of critical infrastructure to states by donors; direct procurement and delivery of Personal Protective Equipments and other critical equipment by donors; deployment of Rapid Response Teams to states for capacity building and support and expansion of the testing capacity in the country."

Mr Mustapha added that for transparency and accountability, the task force will not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations for COVID-19.

"The Accountant General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through some 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 said.

Task for National Assembly

The chairman further explained that the nation is at war against a dangerous enemy and all hands must be on deck to successfully prosecute the war.

To this end, he charged the National Assembly to:

- Develop a legislative framework to prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic;

- Develop a legislative framework for reforming and transforming Nigeria's healthcare systems;

- Strengthen the legislative framework for economic growth through domestic manufacturing;

- Deepen the legislative oversight during this pandemic and beyond;

- Pass legislations that will further ease the ability of the executive to cushion the impact of the economic decline and

- Be part of community mobilization and enlightenment efforts.

While applauding the task force for the work done so far, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, advised the team to have a better coordination of the donations received from public-spirited individuals, corporate bodies and institutions to avoid duplications or the relevant bodies working at cross purposes.

"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.

"I believe that 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 Nigeria', 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," he said.

He also suggested that donations should go to just one common platform as against multiple accounts.

"I believe we must have a central body and not the PTF nor the Corporate groups should receive and manage the funds but based on what the Constitution provides for.

"Where everybody is just collecting and spending, I think it will lead us in a very bad shape. When people contribute their funds, they want to see such funds properly utilised. They want to see efficiency. They want to see transparency. They want to see accountability and of course, probity in what the funds are used for.

"There could be duplication, working at cross purposes. At the end of the day, there will certainly be inefficiency in the application of such resources. But this meeting is going to give us opportunity to discuss this and the way forward."

This, he said, is aimed at ensuring that performance is improved and service delivery is effective and efficient.

President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the distribution of stimulus package to the most vulnerable during the lockdown. He had also ordered that impounded rice be distributed across the 36 states to cushion the effect of the pandemic.

The ministry of humanitarian affairs has since announced the distribution of the first tranche of N5 billion.

The number of confirmed cases in the country has been on the increase. As at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, the NCDC announced a total of 288 cases including seven deaths.

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