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FG spends N31bn on COVID-19 prevention, palliatives

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In a bid to ensure accountability and transparency, the Federal Government has released details of how N31billion donations received was spent on emergency response to prevent further spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.

It said that N31 billion of the total funds, N36.3 billion, were released in four months to federal and state governments agencies to curb community transmission of the novel virus in the country.

The apex government stated that the N36.3 billion received as COVID-19 palliatives were donations from private organisations and other sources including religious organisations and politicians, and that the effort was designed to get Nigeria out of coronavirus ravaged countries.

Details on the spending was made public through a letter sent by the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Connected Development (CODE), responding to the organisation request for details on COVID-19 spending.

In the letter made public by SERAP, Ahmed said that the apex government spent N30,540,563,571.09 of the total funds, representing 84 percent of the total money gotten from donations.

He explained that the released details were in response to the Freedom of Information request sent to his office by SERAP and CODE.

“The Federal Government spent N30,540,563,571.09, representing 84% of the N36.3 billion public funds and donations received to respond to COVID-19 between 1st April 2020 and 31st July 2020, leaving the balance of N5.9 billion,” Idris said.

SERAP, not satisfied with the terse details, said that the documents received by the organization from the government do not contain other significant details, including detailed breakdown of the number of Nigerians who directly or indirectly benefited from the spending, and details on plans to spend the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.

The organisation through a reply signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, and CODE Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, and sent to the Finance ministry which was made available to The Guild, said that though the government action was commendable, more information was needed on the spending for accountability sake.

“We welcome your demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability and hope other public officials and institutions would emulate and learn from the good example you have shown by honouring and respecting FoI Act as a matter of routine and practice.

“We would therefore be grateful to receive more specific details and additional information on the spending of N34.4bn between April and July, and details on plans to spend the balance of the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.”

“We would be grateful if the requested details and additional information are provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP and CODE shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request,” the organizations said.

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