Senior officials of Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, led by the Minister, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed on Saturday met with the leadership of the National Assembly on a proposal by the Executive to set up a N500bn COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.
The meeting held at the National Assembly was attended by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as – Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Idris Wase, their deputies respectively were also attended by some other principal officers from both Chambers.
According to o Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser(Media) to President of the Senate, it was a follow-up to one held mid last week Wednesday between the National Assembly leadership and members of the Presidential Committee for the management of the COVID-19 crisis.
The minister told the lawmakers that the proposed fund to “be created, will involve mopping up resources from various special accounts that the government, as well as the Federation, have, to be able to pool this N500bn.”
Mrs Ahmed said in addition to the identified special accounts, 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 said, explaining that the Fund if approved, will 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.
Speaking earlier, the Senate President said the meeting was to fulfill an earlier promise to provide the needed support at this time of crisis.
“Just like we told Nigerians when there is a 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.
“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.
“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 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,” Lawan said.
Explaining further on his personal twitter handle, Lawan said “such interactions are 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 put in place the things that will make life meaningful for Nigerians.”
Going forward, he continued, there is the 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. ”In line with our earlier promise to provide support as the need arises in this time of #Covid19, the leadership of the National Assembly, today met with the Minister of Finance and her team to discuss ways of addressing the impact of the pandemic.”
Details of these according to the minister, he assured, would be brought to the National Assembly for consideration, after which the National Assembly is prepared to expedite necessary actions that will provide relief to Nigerians.
“For instance, we have to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme. 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,” he stressed.
Giving further insights into the meeting, Gbajabiamila wrote on his twitter handle also on Saturday, that the House of Reps “is considering a second Stimulus Bill that will provide Nigerians with free electricity supply for two months to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The proposed bill which will be considered immediately after the house reconvenes from the ongoing break, he believes, will boost Nigeria’s economy through the informal sector.
Already, he said the House leadership had engaged the electricity distribution companies in the last few days to work out the details of a proposed “second Stimulus Bill that will have Nigerians enjoy two months free electricity.”