As Nigeria grapples to cope with the exigencies of COVID-19, help keeps coming from the private and public sectors to alleviate the strains of the pandemic.
The Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Global Citizen have announced the establishment of a new fund program termed ‘Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund,’ to assist the country in providing long and short term palliatives to the most vulnerable.
At the virtual inauguration which had the vice president Yemi Osinbajo, Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed and members of the NSIA and Global Citizen in attendance, the essence of the initiative was emphasized by leaders of both organizations.
According to the vice chairman, Global Citizen, Aigboje AIg-Imoukhuede, the initiative is aimed at critical areas that have been affected by the pandemic. It will help to mitigate the effects and put the economy on a recovery path.
“We have set up a road map which we have started, to establish one primary healthcare center in each of the 774 government areas,” he said.
He said the fund will be directed at four areas that are considered critical to recovery from the pandemic. Apart from the healthcare services and providing help for the vulnerable, there will be support for those who have been mentally affected by the pandemic’s events, including those who have suffered domestic or sexual violence.
He said the healthcare service will assist the government with additional health facilities that will increase the testing capacity of the country, and increase the chances of life returning to normal in Nigeria.
For Global Citizen, the Chief Policy Maker, Michael Sheldrick said the establishment of the fund aligns with their international policy and will help to provide healthcare to the poor and vulnerable.
“Our involvement in establishing the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund alongside the NSIA directly aligns with our Nigeria policy direction for 2020 which seeks to mobilize funds and commitment to Nigeria’s most marginalized people.
“These investments will be aimed at implementation of universal healthcare coverage and improving the health of the poorest women, children and adolescents in Nigeria which the solidarity funds core response areas directly support the overarching goals for our Nigeria policy direction. I am pleased that our vision as an organization is being realized through establishment of this fund and we will continue to support the country office and the Nigerian board to make sure the fund achieves its mandate,” Sheldrick said.
He said that the shift in geo-political power towards emerging markets and the recognition that developing countries want and need to have agency over their own development have been the two key factors that motivated the idea of the solidarity support fund.
He added that Nigeria is favorably disposed for the opportunity given its rich culture in music, arts and sports. It is also noted as an important hub for the Global Citizens’ programs as it serves as a gateway to other African countries.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commended the initiative; he said that setting up agencies like that is paramount to the country’s recovery from its economic strains, especially as it pertains to the welfare of the vulnerable.
The managing director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority said the fund will be judiciously used in support of other funds created for this purpose.
“The Presidential Task Force is there to ensure that the functions of the various funds do not overlap as each would be targeted at certain areas in tackling the pandemic but the same goal,” he said.
In her remark, the Finance Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said Nigeria’s situation includes demand and supply shocks that require such funds. She added that the government’s efforts need to be complemented to cushion the effects of the economic woes stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that the government is prioritizing health care to ensure that the underprivileged receive adequate care when they need it.
In conclusion, Aig-Imoukhuede said there will be millions of dollars and billions of naira, but assured Nigerians that the fund will be transparent and accountable. He said any fund derived by the agency for the purpose of alleviating the pains of COVID-19 will be free from government’s influence, and there is an auditing and strong legal system in place to ensure that it is judiciously used.
There have been serious questions on how the government is using funds donated for the COVID-19 crisis, with many calling on donors to privately implement their social welfare plans. The Nigerian government has announced its intention to use part of the COVID-19 donations to fund the 2020 budget, a development that appears like betrayal to individuals and organizations that made the donations.
In the wake of the development, it seems many are heeding the call to distribute their palliatives and implement the social programs by themselves. PwC on Thursday outlined how it intends to implement its N100 million pledge and others are advertently, following suit.