Breaking—Reps reconvene Tuesday to approve N500bn COVID-19 intervention fund

Christy Edward

Members of the Nigeria’s House of Representatives are expected to reconvene on Tuesday, 28th April, 2020 to deliberate on some national issues.

Some of the issues according to sources close to the Body of Principal Officers include: debate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the approval of the N500 billion ($1.39 billion) intervention fund as announced by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed during a meeting with the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives led by the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Fem Gbajabiamila.

The notice was contained in a memo titled: ‘Resumption of plenary session’ issued and signed by the Clerk of the House, Mr. Patrick Giwa and obtained by Citywide Multimedia.

The memo read: “This is to inform all Members of the House of Representatives that the House will now resume plenary session on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at 10.am.

“Members are advised to take note of the new date of resumption, please.

“The Covid-19 Guidelines approved by the Federal Government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and additional Guidelines developed by the House will be sent to Members’ pigeon holes for collection on resumption.

“Staff and Members’ Aides are to work from home and will be notified when needed in the office for any special assignment,” the memo read.

In her presentation at the marathon meeting held on the 4th April, 2020, the Minister who solicited for the understanding of the Parliament, said: “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,” 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.

She further explained that: the “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.”

According to her, if approved, the fund 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.

The Minister also briefed the Principal Officers of the World Bank’s Regional Disease Surveillance Systems (‘REDISSE’) facility worth $90 million out of which $8 million has been drawn by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the need to fully draw down the outstanding balance of US$82 million.

In addition, Mrs. Ahmed hinted on the present administration’s efforts to request for additional financing in the sum of US$100 million from the REDISSE project to meet COVID-19 emergency needs in all the 36 States and the FCT, through the NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health.