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COVID 19:Buhari Demands Approval Of A N500 billion Intervention Fund From the National Assembly As The IMF Makes Available $50 billion to Contain The Disease In 80 Countries

By Suleiman Umaru

 More facts have emerged why  Muhammadu Buhari, had requested the approval of the National Assembly for  a N500 billion Intervention Fund , to tackle the Wuhan town  in Province of China  emerged Coronavirus  which had shit  203 countries, according to the World Health  Organisation, WHO, including Nigeria .

This is because the united Nations, UN,  had set up a Trust Fund to support low and middle income countrie that had been s hit by the disease. Only recently, the world body, issued  a $2 billion  humanitarian appeal  for  40 developing  countries that were said to have been badly hit by the pandemic.

Kristalina Gergieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, IMF, said the bank could not fold its hand and watch the world economy being destroyed by the virus as it has made available $50 billion at the instance of G-20 Finance ministers and the governors of the Central Banks to respond to the health challenge in 80  low and middle income countries across the world.

The Katsina born Nigerian President  may not have  wanted  Nigeria  to lose out from  benefitting from the IMF fund at this trying and difficult time. There is no gain saying the fact that Ghana, Egypt, Morocco , South African and other African  countries had set up Special Coronavirus  Intervention  Fund  to contain the  spread of the disease  in order to benefit from the IMF largesse.

Georgieva: Managing Director, IMF

But the world financial body appears to devised a strategy to ensure that only countries that deserve to benefit from the $50 billion that had been made available to address the disease  got it by launching a Tracker of Policies  initiated by various governments across the world in tackling the COVID 19.  

The Bank  had revealed  that  since the outbreak of the deadly disease, Investors had removed  $83 billion from emerging markets , being the largest  capital outflow in recorded history. It is not surprising why  Georgieva, the IMF, Managing Director had   said that the bank has become  more concerned  about the   low and middle  income  countries in debt distress.

She had said at its recent meeting  that the bank, had made all the necessary arrangement  to deploy  all its  $1 trillion lending Capacity to support  the 80 low  and middle income countries which had been  hit by the  disease in order to improve their health care system. The IMF boss disclosed  that  several countries, had asked the world Financial Institution to make a Special Drawing Right, SDR, allocation as  was done  during the last global financial crisis.

Given the damage that had had been caused the world  economy by the disease, Georgieva, the IMF , Managing Director , said the bank  is working closely with the  world Bank and other International Financial Institutions across the world  to provide a strong and Coordinated response to the crisis.

This is may have informed  why the  President is  had stepped up the government anti-Coronavirus response in the last two months. The  N500 COVID 19 Intervention Fund is one of such urgent measures that had been taken by the government to convince the IMF , officials  that the country  is not sitting idle and watch the COVID 19 scourge destroy the economy.

As a prelude to getting the approval of the National Assembly  on the N500 billion COVID 19 Crisis, expected to be sourced from theS various government special Accounts and grants from  Multilateral Financial Institutions, the Katsina born Nigerian President had dispatched  Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning  to the National Assembly leadership to brief the Principal officers  about the N500 billion demand , which had been forwarded as an  Executive bill in order to facilitate its immediate approval.

It was a bold initiative to have been to taken  by the President to soften the ground for the approval of the Executive bill by the Lawmakers. Hajia Ahmed  was said to have held a closed door meeting with the National Assembly leadership comprising of of Ahnad Lawan, the Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, a Lawyer and Deputy Senate President, Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker , Hose of Representatives and Idris Wase, the Deputy Speaker of the House.

The ministerial meeting with the National Assembly Leadership, according to Ola Awoniyi, the Special Adviser to Lawan, the Senate President  was a follow up to a recent meeting that had been held between  the National Assembly Principal officers  and the Presidential Committee on COVID 19, under the Chairmanship of Boss Mustapha, the secretary to the Federal government.

The Committee members may have prepared  the mind of the Lawmakers  that the Committee would need at least  N500 billion to be able to contain the spread of the deadly disease in the country. The Committee members  may have informed  the National Assembly Leadership that the president would an Executive  Bill  to them for approval in respect of the financial demand  to curb the spread of the disease in the country.  Lawan, the Senate President may  have given his words that they will consider any proposal that might be sent to them for approval by the President in order to contain the COVID 19, Crisis.

 That may have gladdened the heart of the minister to report back to the President her discussion  with the National Assembly leadership on the matter. As at  Sunday, April 5, 2020, no fewer than 224 persons , according to officials of the Nigerian Center for disease Control. NCDC, had been infested by the disease which had claimed the lives of four victims.

Hajia Ahmed, the minister of Finance , Budget and  National Planning had said that the COVID 19, N500 billion Intervention Fund, would be used  to improve the country’s Health facilities in the state that had been affected by the disease including  supporting such states with additional fund  to curb further spread of the disease.

The minster also said that part of the N50 billion COVID Intervention Fund being  demanded by the President would be spent to  take care of the public  programmes currently  being undertaken  by the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, an agency under  the ministry of Labour and Productivity.

The Chinese government may have known that the country, which is one of its major trading partners in the African Continent  lack the medical expertise and the facilities to adequately  handle the COVID 19 Crisis, that  it had volunteered to send  some of its medical personnel  to assist the country.

Many believe that the Chinese government may have opted to assist Nigeria in this trying and difficult times  to  protect its investment  and maintain its STRONG  hold on the  country’s economy.  Note that the  state  owned Company , Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CECC, are handling several multi-million projects  in the country ranging construction of roads  in different parts of the country to the building  of the $10 billion standard dual gauge rail line in the country. Note that the loan for the  Construction of the multi- billion US dollar standard dual gauge  rail line was provided by the China Development Bank.

Given the strong hold of the Chinese on the country’s economy ,  the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, have made it clear to Osagie Ehanire, the minister of Health , that they are not ready  to welcome the Chinese medical Team  to the country  despite the fact  that the minister of Health  at the instance of the President may have  given the nod to the Chinese Team of medical experts : Doctors,  nurses and those with sundry expertise  to come  in order to assist the country in tackling the  COVID19, disease.

Aliyu Sokomba, the President of the Association had asked  the  minister of Health  to shelve the plan of inviting the Chinese Medical Team for  now to avoid collapsing the nation’s health sector. Sokomba enjoined the him to engage all key relevant Nigerian Medical  experts, who are all over the University Teaching Hospitals  across the country , including NARD  to review the nation’s health system.

He would want the health minister to” present the full intent and purpose of invitation of the Chinese Medical Team  into the country for full evaluation, Cost – Benefit analysis in order to reach a consensus  for the next option”.

The government may not likely bow to NARD pressure to stop the Chinese Medical experts from coming to the country at this critical time that the number of Corovirus  victims are on the increase on a daily basis because the deal had already been signed at no cost to the country.

Stephen Ubanna

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