FG seeks NASS’ approval for N500b COVID-19 intervention fund


The Federal Government, yesterday, asked the National Assembly to approve the establishment of a N500b Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Crisis Intervention Fund.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, made the disclosure when she met with the leadership of the National Assembly in Abuja. The meeting was a follow-up meeting to the one held last Wednesday between the National Assembly leadership, and members of the Presidential Committee set up for the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

While presenting the request Ahmed said: “What we are proposing is an establishment of a N500b 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 N500b.”

The finance minister further said that in addition to the identified special accounts from where the money would 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 healthcare facilities not only in the states, but to provide intervention to the states,” Mrs. Ahmed said.

She added: “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 President of the Senate at the meeting openly faulted the sharing of N20,000 largesse as palliatives to select families across the nation, to cushion the effects of the lockdown, which President Muhammadu Buhari ordered in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), saying there was an urgent need to redefine the Social Intervention Programmes (SIP) to make it more efficient.

“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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Pointing out that the meeting was in fulfillment of an earlier promise to provide support as the need arises in this time of crisis, Lawan stressed: “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 developmental issues and challenges in the country, we will do so.

“This meeting, the second in the series after we shut down the National Assembly for two weeks, is a clear testimony of what we have said. 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.”

The death of a diabetic and hypertensive patient, who also tested positive to COVID-19 has exposed so many relatives, friends, doctors and other health workers including, nurses, pharmacists and medical laboratory practitioners to the risk of contracting the virus.

This is because nobody knew that the deceased man had COVID-19 till well after his death, after being on admission at LUTH.

Yesterday, there was panic in the hospital when The Guardian visited. Doctors and nurses were seen in groups discussing the issue.

A doctor who preferred anonymity told The Guardian: “The situation is complicated. Who knows how many people he must have infected before his death? I hope he has not infected all of us with the virus. Although we have been observing standard operating procedures, that is, treating every patient as if she or he has the virus, but how careful can you be with this virus that survives on hard surfaces?”

The situation was confirmed, yesterday, by the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Prof. Chris Bode, who told journalists: “A man was brought unconscious to LUTH Emergency late in the evening of Wednesday (01/04/2020) by his friend, and although they denied any history of recent travel, his presentation strongly suggested COVID-19. He was handled professionally by the Infectious Diseases Consultant, and his team without unduly exposing LUTH staff to danger. He died a few hours later.

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“Further investigations later revealed that he had earlier performed a test at Yaba, soon after he returned to the country from Holland, and the test was positive. He was a known diabetic, hypertensive patient. He had also had a kidney transplant for chronic kidney disease, and was on immunosuppressant drugs.”

The consultant paediatric surgeon said the body has since been handed over to the appropriate unit of the Lagos State Ministry of Health for safe burial according to international best practices.

He said LUTH’s Department of Community Medicine has moved swiftly to trace, follow-up and assist staff, who managed the patient.

The CMD implored all staff to continue observing strict standard protocols while handling all patients, as medical personnel are especially at increased risk from such undisclosed exposure.

Bode added that efforts were being made to ensure the availability of all required items to continue the effective management of such cases that come to LUTH, and that efforts were also in top gear to complete the isolation facility at LUTH for the management of any possible spillover from the Yaba Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) if the surge in patients’ load continues.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), yesterday, enjoined Nigerians to observe social distancing and all other preventive measures aimed at containing the pandemic.

Chairman of the forum, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, in a statement, noted that it behooves Nigerians to stay safe and work together towards overcoming the scourge.

The forum commended frontline medical personnel under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health, and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), on efforts to tackle the spread of infectious diseases in the country.

The forum prayed to God continue to guide and protect the country and the world to succeed to bring to an immediate end to the pandemic.

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Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country might hit 5, 000 before the end of April this year should the Federal Government fail to scale-up contact tracing and isolation of persons infected.

A development economist, Dr. Chiwuike Uba, who gave the warning lamented that the country has failed to take advantage of lessons learnt from the 2014 Ebola outbreak by building and equipping healthcare facilities in preparation for future outbreaks.

He stressed that the continuous spread of COVID-19 in the country has exposed the lip services so far paid to the health sector.

Uba told The Guardian in Enugu that even though measures so far taken by the presidency were commendable, he fears that the country may be confronting what he described as “epidemiological pandemic,” should the pandemic gets to the poorest of the people, where there are no health facilities.

He therefore, suggested that more resources should be deployed for contact tracing and isolation as critical factors in the prevention of the spread of the virus.

“We are very worried, not just only over the panic approach employed by governments in addressing the pandemic, but also concerning the implications of the panicky lockdown on the overall wellbeing of families and the would-be consequences of the action on the state and national economy, including security.

“Evidently, the order to stay indoors without providing palliatives and or relief materials to over 90 million Nigerians that are living in extreme poverty indicates the insensitivity of the different tiers of governments to the pains of Nigerians. Most importantly, when over 61.68 per cent of Nigerians are vulnerable to food, poverty and six people fall into extreme poverty every minute in Nigeria.”

Uba, who is the Chairman of Amaka Chiwuike –Uba foundation said that emergencies such as the one presently in the country, provides opportunity for fraud and urged that measures be put in place to promote accountability, integrity, inclusiveness, trust and quality transparency in the administration of the palliatives and COVID-19 expenditures.

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