A civil society organization, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, in conjunction with Transparency International, TI, Monday called for accountability in the use of COVID-19 intervention fund in the country.
The groups while lauding the effort of government and stakeholders towards curtailing the pandemic however faulted the constitution of the committee put in place to coordinate the disbursement of the funds which has so far amounted to billions of naira.
In a statement signed by CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, the groups called for openness in the management of the funds as the country battles to tame the spread of the deadly virus.
The statement read: “We call on the federal government, relevant authorities and anti-graft institutions to ensure proper accountability in the utilisation and distribution of the donated funds.
“All distributed funds need to be recorded and pro-actively published so that impartial and objective verification is enabled.
“As we welcome the recent constitution of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 response with specific responsibility to coordinate donations for efficient and impactful spending, we are also surprised that selection and appointment into the Committee did not take cognisance of representatives from the media and other credible governmental and non-governmental organisations working on anti-corruption, transparency and accountability in governance and public financial management.
“In times of global public emergency, proactive measures to ensure judicious utilisation and distribution of these funds are needed more than ever. Inclusion of media and other accountability entities in the committee would compel transparency and accountability in the utilisation and dissemination of managed funds.
“At this critical junction, Nigeria cannot afford mismanagement and misappropriation of public and donated funds.
“We, on this note have no hesitation to state that diversion or misappropriation of the funds would be tantamount to total betrayal, unpatriotic, unsympathetic and selfishness in the management of the nation’s treasury which are punishable under relevant laws.
“While we monitor with keen interest response of various authorities to commitment of the federal government towards alleviating impacts of the newly pronounced lockdown in some states, we demand sincere effort to ensure relief materials and other financial and material assistance are deployed accordingly to citizens irrespective of their socio-economic status with holistic and transparent strategy to adequately appropriate relief package to citizens at the grassroots level.
“We also observe that ongoing development has further revealed the government’s inadequate preparedness capacity to mitigate impacts of the pandemic and other national emergency with existing poor national storage capacity for food and other basic needs to respond adequately.”
Quoting the United Nations International Emergency Funds, UNICEF, Rafsanjani added that “only 26.5 per cent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, around 75 million Nigerians do not have an access to electricity.”
The statement continued: “Given the global trend, we observed that the lockdown cannot be meaningful without adequate proactive measures by the government on the provision of basic amenities such as sufficient food supplies, access to water and regular power supply to genuinely address the plights and agitations of common citizens, whose daily means of income would be largely affected.
“Any lockdown must take into consideration these underlying infrastructure deficits.”