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BudgIT demands COVID-19 fund accountability

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BudgIT, a foremost civic-tech organisation leading the advocacy for transparency and accountability in Nigeria, has released a detailed research report on COVID-19 Fund Management in Nigeria titled COVID-19 Fund: Fiscal Support, Palliative Analysis & Institutional Response.” In this research, we reviewed Nigeria’s current fiscal support and institutional response to the pandemic. We also analysed data on COVID-19 response in Nigeria, including donations, allocations, disbursements and palliative distribution processes at both the National and Subnational levels.

In 2020, the COVID-19 response in Nigeria began with the establishment of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Headed by Mr Boss Mustapha, the task force was mandated, alongside other government agencies, to coordinate and oversee Nigeria’s multi-sectoral intergovernmental efforts to contain the virus’ spread in Nigeria. Further, the federal government initiated a process to provide palliative measures, including funds disbursements and food items distribution to Nigerians, especially the marginalised and vulnerable.

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. 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 COVID19 fund accountability in Nigeria.

“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”  – Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa, Senior Program Officer, BudgIT.

The call for an effective framework for COVID-19 transparency and accountability could not have happened at a better time, especially in an environment deeply rooted in a profiteering culture and aversion to openness in the use of public funds. Per our findings, the continuous mismanagement of palliative items and funds earmarked for the COVID-19 response has created a wider gap between the rich and the poor where the vulnerable and marginalised are denied access to the palliative items that rightfully belong to them.

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.

“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,” said Gabriel Okeowo, CEO, BudgIT

While BudgIT and Nigerians are still waiting for responses from the government on the concerns raised, we reiterate that the government must improve investment in the health sector, ensure the timely release of audited statements on COVID-19 funds, institutionalise access to information to reduce misinformation and prioritise citizen inclusion in committees and decision making process.

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