Stakeholders demand transparency in utilisation of N500bn Covid-19 stimulus fund

Key stakeholders in Nigeria’s health sector have demanded transparent and accountable utilization of the N500 billion stimulus funds donated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Nigeria, to help combat Covid-19 related issues.

The African Health Budget Network (AHBN), coordinated by Aminu Magashi, said every COVID-19 fund and recovery plan touches the lives of all Nigerians, and as such, the public should be adequately informed on how each penny is utilised.

Speaking during a two-day annual conference of the Association of Health Journalists (ANHEJ), in Nasarawa State, Magashi who was represented by the Senior Programme and Partnership Officer, Obinna Onuoha said about N126 billion was given out to the health sectors to help build resilient health systems and also to settle other underlying health conditions faced by the sector so far.

The remaining N374 billion will be shared out to non-health sectors, he said.

In the health sector, 86 billion was given out for capital projects on the revitalization of the health sector, while the remaining 40 billion was allocated for other critical issues or challenges faced. Out of this, the following organizations were listed to gain a share of the stimulus: The Nigerian Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other related departments received N10 billion, while the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development ( NIPRD) received N2billion for its research and development.

Also, N18 billion was allocated to 21 University teaching hospitals and 31 Federal medical centres and Specialist hospitals and N7.7 billion for the provision of personal protective materials for workers in the laboratories.

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Furthermore, N18.4 billion was given out to all the 36 states including the FCT, for the equipping of 10 intensive care units, N5.2 billion was also allocated for the equipping of the isolation centres in each state and N20billion hazard allowance allocated for workers.

It was however gathered that only about 50 percent of the funds have been released and shared among the various organizations and sectors. Magashi urged those who have received the fund to commence work immediately, as work delayed after funding will be seen as sabotage by the public.

He further called on ANHEJ members to ensure they ask hard questions on the type, nature and duration of funding support for every recovery plan.

The WHO Nigeria Communication Officer, Charity Warigon noted that there is much to attain in driving confidence in the vaccination effort by building trust. She said, the theme of the two-day conference is apt, explaining that journalists remain vital in achieving the goal of keeping Nigerians safe.

“Journalists can only improve on what we have achieved so far and even do better, as there is so much to attain in driving confidence in the vaccination effort by building trust and continuously being a trusted and reliable source.

In his remarks, ANHEJ Board Chairman, Godwin Odemijie, charged journalists to focus on issues of mental health, stressing that this is affecting many people now and called on journalists to do more investigative and Human angle stories to stem the tides of mental health issues.