A non-governmental civic-tech organisation, BudgIT, has raised concerns over the lack of transparency in the disbursement of funds and palliatives meant to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
BudgIT disclosed this in Lagos while launching a report on COVID-19 Fund Management in Nigeria, which reviewed Nigeria’s current fiscal support and institutional response to the pandemic.
The research contained ‘analyses on COVID-19 response in Nigeria, donations, allocations, disbursements and palliative distribution processes at both the National and Subnational levels.’
BudgIT Communications Associate, Iyanu Fatobam, in a release said, “our report reviewed the activities of these agencies as well as the support received by the government from both private and international institutions, including the $5.6 billion received as donations, grants, and relief support by the Nigerian government.”
“We also spotlighted concerns about intervention programmes from private coalitions. For example, as of April 7, 2020, CACOVID, a private coalition of donors and corporate founders, has received donations totalling N21.5bn, according to PROSHARE. Suffice it to say that the federal government has disbursed N288bn from the N500bn set aside for Covid-19 intervention programmes through its Economic Sustainability Plan,” Fatobam added.
“As of the time of our report, comprehensive details of disbursed funds have not been published on the Open Treasury platform. This further establishes our concerns about the lack of a proper framework for COVID-19 fund accountability in Nigeria.”
COVID-19 In Nigeria
On Feb. 27, 2020, Nigeria recorded its first COVID-19 case. As part of responses to contain the virus, the federal government and state governments enforced a lockdown banning all social gathering and non-essential activities across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari additionally set up a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 control, headed by Boss Mustapha, to coordinate and oversee Nigeria’s multi-sectoral and intergovernmental efforts to contain the novel virus in the country. The team was to work with relevant agencies including the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) on operationalisation, safety protocols, public engagements, treatments measures, and fund-support or allocations.
According to BudgIT’s report, information on how several funds were spent are not available to the public—including the 2020 Appropriation Act of N500 billion for COVID-19 invention programmes with just N94.4 billion disbursed to seven out of 15 ministries, a contribution of about N99 billion for palliative care and others.
“Using six (6) states – Niger, Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Enugu and Rivers – as case studies, our research further reveals that many people vehemently disagreed with the government’s method of palliative distribution in their communities as they could not access any of the distributed palliative items, especially to the vulnerable,” the report mentioned.
Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa, Senior Program Officer at BudgIT, added that “it is discouraging to discover that not much has been done regarding COVID-19 fund accountability in Nigeria. To this end, we are committed to partnering with agencies like the ICPC and others, to ensure a proper framework for probing COVID-19 response issues.”
However, the NGO recommended that an effective framework of COVID-19 Accountability could be done through citizen inclusion, access to information, establishment of toll-free line, digital and comprehensive social register as well as misinformation control.
“Health emergencies are inevitable, and a country must never be caught unawares. An effective response must begin with adequate preparation and resource allocation to the health sector, after which a proper process for monitoring, transparency and accountability should be established,” Gabriel Okeowo, CEO, BudgIT said.