The federal government of Nigeria has approached the National Assembly, seeking the lawmakers’ approval for the establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 crisis intervention fund.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, led the Federal Government’s delegation which met with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila on Saturday to work out the modalities.
The finance minister was accompanied by senior officials from the ministry to the meeting which was also attended by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, and some other principal officers from both chambers.
According to information gathered, the meeting was a follow-up to one held last week Wednesday between the National Assembly leadership and members of the Presidential Committee which was set up for the management of the COVID-19 crisis.
The finance minister said, “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 N500billion.
“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.
“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.”
Mrs Ahmed noted that if approved, the fund would take care of special Public Work Programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment.
In his remarks during the meeting, the Senate President reiterated the commitment of the lawmakers to support the nation during the time of crisis.
Lawan said, “Just like we told Nigerians when there is need for us to meet or to take legislative action in support of ensuring that the government responds appropriately to development issues and challenges in the country, we will do so.
“I think coming to us for those loans is critical because we are in an emergency and time is of the essence. So, we must work as expeditiously as possible to ensure that we place the request before the National Assembly.
“I think the 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.”