By Patrick Obia
As nations and states continue to feel the ravaging effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the solid minerals commissioner in Cross River state, George O’ben-Etchi has called on the Nigerian government to disburse emergency funds to all states to combat and prevent the spread of the virus.
“I believe it’s time the Federal Government release emergency funds to states right now to help states that are affected by the scourge fight it and states not affected to do all in preventing the scourge from entering their states,” O’ben-Etchi wrote in his Facebook wall on Monday morning.
He said the central government owed her citizenry, an obligation of protection even as he wondered whether the federal government was waiting for the situation to worsen before it acts.
As at March 6, 2020, the federal government had released NGN984 million to tackle the pandemic.
On March 25th, another NGN6.5 billion was announced as support for the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) while the Lagos state government which is hardest hit was given NGN10 billion.
Also, in early April, the government announced a NGN500 billion COVID-19 crisis intervention fund. Furthermore, President Muhammadu Buhari in a nationwide broadcast while announcing his administration’s decision to up its conditional cash transfer scheme and pay for four months (January to April 2020).
“Beneficiaries are entitled to N5, 000 every month; however, the payment of N20, 000 now to each beneficiary is for four mouths,” Mr. Buhari had said.
Over 1 million households in 32 states are captured in the conditional cash transfer register according to data from the national cash transfer office.
And, O’ben-Etchi who queried the data and disbursement of funds to “people we cannot verify,” pointed out that: “the federal government owe the citizens that responsibility to act now, the sovereign wealth fund must be activated now to help the states before things get out of hands.
“This is very critical times and the federal government must be proactive and stop telling Nigerians how they have disbursed billions to people that we cannot verify.”
The position of the Akamkpa born politician, who stressed the need to support states with limited resources, used the decision of the federal government to bail out states in the past as as his main buttress.
“If the Federal Government could release bailout funds for salaries, why not now that the states need emergency funds to tackle this pandemic? Or would they rather wait until states can no longer hold their own and more states are affected and God forbid people keep dropping dead before they act? I believe the time to act is now, let’s not wait until more havoc is done before they wake up from their slumber.
“Some state Governors like that of Cross River State, have done so much and committed limited resources in ensuring that this pandemic does not enter their states, it’s now time for the Federal Government to urgently release emergency funds to states before things get out of hands.
“No one saw this coming and so at this critical moment, federal governments the world over are reaching out to their states or regional governments with emergency funds and needed equipments to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, even countries that have strong and very rich states please, please and please, the time to act is now, let’s lend our voices to this call so that the federal government of Nigeria can come to the aid of states and by extention save the lives of it’s citizens, after all, the primary objective of any government either at the states or federal level, is the protection of the lives, rights and properties of its citizens,” he wrote.
As at press time, data from the NCDC showed that 15 states including the Federal Capital Territory have recorded 238 confirmed cases out of which 35 have recovered and five deaths recorded.
As at 09:30 pm 6th April, there are
238 confirmed cases
For a breakdown of cases by state- https://t.co/zQrpNeOfet
Akwa Ibom- 5
— NCDC (@NCDCgov) April 6, 2020
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