BIG STORIES FOR THE WEEK (14)

The Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, (PRIMORG) is a non-governmental, not for profit civil society organization, established with the mission to promote good governance, accountability and transparency.

We look at some of the big stories that shaped the week in Nigeria and beyond.

FG SEEKS NASS APPROVAL FOR N500BN COVID-19 INTERVENTION FUND

The Federal Government has sought the approval of the National Assembly for an intervention fund to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed met with NASS leadership on Saturday over an Executive proposal to establish a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.

Zainab, 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 of the House, Idris Wase and some other principal officers from both chambers.

According to a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media, Ola Awoniyi, 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.

“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,” Zainab said.

Speaking further, the Minister said 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.

“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 stated.

Zainab explained to the lawmakers that the fund if approved, will also take care of special public work programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).

COVID-19: RESIDENT DOCTORS REJECT FG’S PLAN TO  BRING-IN CHINESE MEDICAL DOCTORS

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has kicked against a plan by the Federal Government to invite an 18-man Chinese team of medical experts including doctors, nurses and those with sundry expertise to assist Nigeria in the fight against COVID-19.

President of the association, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, in a statement made available to Channels Television, advised the Federal government to shelve the Plan of inviting the Chinese Medical team rather, and immediately engage all key relevant Nigerian medical experts including NARD and present the full intents and purpose of the planned importation of the Chinese experts for full evaluation, cost-benefit analysis and consensus on the best option.

He also noted that inviting the Chinese medical experts will amount the Federal Government to be championing “illegality”, as all doctors coming into Nigeria are supposed to be licensed by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

Sokomba, therefore, noted that the Chinese medical experts have not been licensed to perform any job in the country.

“The attempt to import Human resources for Health from China into Nigeria where many qualified medical doctors and other cadres of health workers are yet to be gainfully employed is the height of insensitivity and disservice on the part of the Federal Government and their advisers.

“The challenge at hand would have been sufficient marker to agitate the FG to the direction and timing for massive employment of medical and other health care workers to provide enough hands in the industry to battle the COVID 19 as other nations are doing”.

The Minister for Health, Osagie Ohanire had on Friday stated that China is sending in more kits as well as doctors to support the government’s efforts in the fight against the virus.

“I have been notified of gifts of medical supplies from China, courtesy of a group of Chinese companies working here in Nigeria. A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items which include commodities, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and ventilators,” he said during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, adding that “Of great interest is that an 18-man team of medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers shall come along with the flight to assist us”.

The resident doctors, however, say they have distanced themselves from the plan.

“In the interim, NARD wishes to distance herself from the planned importation of Chinese medical experts to Nigeria in whatever guise or hood for the reasons presented in this write-up and many more,” Sokomba stated.

 

COVID-19: REPS SEEK TWO-MONTH FREE POWER SUPPLY TO NIGERIANS.

Members of the House of Representatives are set to consider a fresh Stimulus Bill that will ensure that Nigerians get free electricity supply for two months to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Speaker of the House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila, in a statement issued on Saturday, noted that the proposed Bill will help in boosting the economy through the informal sector as the country prepares for the aftermath of the coronavirus.

According to him, the Bill which will be the second Stimulus Bill by the Green Chamber will be considered immediately the House reconvenes from its ongoing break, declared due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly leadership says the resumption date which had initially been slated for April 7, will be extended by one week in compliance with the government’s two-week stay-at-home policy.

Gbajabiamila disclosed this during a meeting between the National Assembly leadership and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmad, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, among others.

Gbajabiamila said the country could not afford to be unprepared for the effects of the COVID-19 on the economy.

Explaining the necessity for the proposed stimulus bill for the electricity sector, the Speaker said electricity, being a commodity consumed by every household, has a greater effect on the people and that since more Nigerians are in the informal sector, the effects would be more felt by the economy.

“The issue of electricity, you’ll agree, because the Minister did say that she has been inundated by the public, just as we are, on several suggestions and ideas and I am almost a hundred percent sure that, from those ideas will be the issue of some kind of shelter, as far as electricity is concerned.

“It is one thing that will touch every household. As I said earlier, when we engaged, I discussed with the electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) that packaged whatever they would require, if the government can give them, for us to allow for two months free electricity for Nigerians, they would be able to guarantee it.

“We have the figures. I think we should look very seriously into that as part of our package for economic stimulus, because stimulus means something that will stimulate the economy.                                                               When you are stimulating the economy, most of it will come from the informal sector.

“When you are saving people their electricity and the fact that they now have stable electricity for two months, you are also saving the monies that would go into the payment of those bills at least for two months.”

 

         COVID-19: RELIEF DONATIONS FROM PRIVATE SECTOR HIT N15BN – CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on during week said that monetary contributions to its relief fund under the auspices of Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) stood at N15 Billion.

CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, said in a statement in Lagos that the donations were from 37 donors, including individuals, banks and other corporate bodies.

“A breakdown of the contributions showed that CBN and Aliko Dangote donated N2billion each.

“Abdul Samad Rabiu (Bua Sugar Refinery), Segun Agbaje (GTB); Tony Elumelu (UBA); Oba Otudeko (First Bank); Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank); Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank) and Femi Otedola of Amperion Power Distribution donated N1 Billion each to the relief fund.

“Pacific Holding Ltd, Union Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank Nigeria Ltd, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, ECOBank, African Steel Mills and Multichoice Nigeria Limited also made donations.

” Similarly, FSDH Merchant Bank, FBN Merchant Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Coronation Merchant Bank, Sun Trust Bank, Providus Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank, Heritage Bank, Nova Merchant Bank, Polaris Bank and Keystone Bank donated.

“Others are Globus Bank, Titan Trust Bank, Takagro Chemicals Ltd, Ahmadu Mahmoud and Handy Capital Ltd make up the list of those that have sofar made contributions to the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Relief Fund domiciled at the CBN,” he said.

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