The Federal Government on Saturday reached out to the National Assembly with an Executive proposal to establish a N500billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, led the Federal Government’s team and met with the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to work out the modalities for the deal.
The finance minister 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 N500billion.
“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.
“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 that in addition to the identified special accounts from where the money would be drawn as loans, the proposed intervention fund is also expected to be sourced from grants being expected and loans from multilateral institutions.
She told the lawmakers that the Fund if approved, would take care of special Public Work Programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment.
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 developments 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 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 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.”
Also in attendance at the meeting was the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, and some other principal officers from both chambers.