Abuja — The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, has bemoaned the state of Nigeria's health system, saying he never knew the infrastructure was in such a deplorable condition until recently.
Mustapha, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, told the leadership of the National Assembly at a meeting in Abuja yesterday that until his appointment as COVID-19 taskforce chairman in March, he never knew that the nation's total health system was in a shambles.
According to him, if countries in Europe and America with excellent health infrastructure could be easily overwhelmed by the impact of COVID-19, "my prayer is that Nigeria's situation does not escalate to that extent because the country lacked what is required to handle the situation".
Mustapha added that Nigeria is up against an invisible enemy in the fight against the virus with the situation requiring the support of all.
He called on the National Assembly to through legislative intervention prepare Nigeria against future occurrence and reform of the health care system.
The SFG also urged the National Assembly to deepen its oversight function by coming up with legislation that will make it easier for the executive to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the citizenry.
He added that for transparency and accountability, the task force would not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of 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 (CBN). However, all non-cash donations shall be duly received by the PTF, acknowledged, documented and appropriately deployed," Mustapha said.
In his opening remarks, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, hailed members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for their efforts in the management of the outbreak of the virus in the country.
Lawan, who commended the task force for standing firm to execute the assignment, however, advised them to have a better coordination of the donations received from public-spirited individuals, corporate bodies and institutions to avoid duplication or working at cross purposes.
He said: "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.
"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 the opportunity to discuss this and the way forward."
According to him, the essence of the meeting is for the leaders of the National Assembly to engage with the PTF in order to understand clearly what the task force has been doing.
"But let me also, say that this is a partnership. As you work from that side of government, we are to work with you from this side and it will take the two arms, particularly the executive and legislature, to implement the kind of efforts to manage and control the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
"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 the government in its effort to manage and control the coronavirus."
The meeting was also attended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, Hon Idris Wase, principal officers and members of the Senate and House committees.