FG seeks approval for N500bn COVID-19 crisis fund

Zainab Ahmed


The Federal Government has proposed to establish a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this yesterday at a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly.

She said the proposed intervention fund would be sourced from the Federal Government’s various special accounts, grants being expected and loans from multilateral institutions.

The minister said the fund would be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities as well as provide intervention to states.

Ahmed, with senior officials from her ministry, held the meeting with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

The meeting, which held at the National Assembly, was also attended by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase and some other principal officers from both chambers.

“What we are proposing is an establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund. This Fund that we are proposing, that should be created, will involve mopping up resources from various special accounts that the government as well as the Federation have, to be able to pull this N500 billion. 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,” Ahmed said. 

She told the lawmakers that the fund, if approved, would also take care of special Public Work Programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).

“We know that there will be a need for the parliament to agree and approve the taking of loans from these special accounts and we will be coming back with a proposed bill in that regard that will define what the fund will be used for,” the minister said.

Earlier in his remarks, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the meeting was in fulfilment of an earlier promise to provide support as the need arises.

“Governance requires that we work together, so we want to listen to those things that you have on your side and how we can also play our constitutional role in ensuring that Nigerians continue to benefit from governance and how we are able to weather the storm created by COVID-19. Going forward, we need to interact more because very fundamental decisions will need to be taken, and these decisions can only be said to be constitutionally legal if the legislature gives its stamp of authority for the executive to implement and execute.

“I think coming to us for those loans is critical because we are 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.

Lawan said there was the need to redefine the implementation of the Federal Government’s existing Social Intervention Programme, arguing that giving poor people N20,000 each might not be the best way to ease the economic fallout of the coronavirus lockdown.

“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,” Lawan said. 

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