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COVID-19: FG seeks NASS approval for N500bn intervention fund

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

Ola Awoniyi, the Special Adviser to the President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in a statement said that the minister held the meeting with the President of the Senate and senior officials of the ministry at the National Assembly Complex in the Federal Capital Territory.

Also in attendance were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, and some principal officers of both Chambers.

The meeting is a follow-up to another one held on March 25 between the National Assembly leadership and members of the Presidential Committee set up for the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

“What we are proposing is the establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.

“This Fund that we are proposing 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,” the minister said.

Ahmed added that in addition to the identified special accounts from where the money would be drawn as loans, the proposed intervention fund would also 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.

Ahmed explained to the lawmakers that the Fund, if approved, would 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.

Earlier in his remarks, the Senate President said the meeting was in fulfilment of an earlier promise to provide support as the need arises in this time of crisis.

“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.

“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 to also see 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 time has come for us to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme, because 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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