THE Federal Government has disclosed that it has spent N30.5 billion from the Federation Account and donations from spirited Nigerians to fight COVID-19 pandemic in four months.
Ahmed Idris, Accountant-General of the Federation, made this disclosure in response to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated 10 August, 2020 and sent to his office by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Connected Development (CODE).
According to Idris, the amount spent represents 84 per cent of the N36.3 billion public funds and donations received to respond to COVID-19 pandemic between April 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020 with a balance of N5.9 billion left.
He further revealed that N22 billion was spent by the Presidential Task Force, and N7 billion went to the states to support their COVID-19 initiatives.
The Accountant General added that the Nigerian Air Force and Nigeria Police Force have respectively spent N877 million for deployment of assets in support of COVID-19 operations and Nigeria Police spent N500 million on personal protective equipment.
In response, Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director of SERAP and Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive of CODE , in a letter dated September 4, 2020 addressed to the Account General, lamented that his office did not provide a breakdown on how the money was spent.
“However, we also note that the documents sent to us do not contain other significant details as indicated in our FoI request dated 10 August, 2020, including details and breakdown of the number of Nigerians who directly or indirectly have benefited from the spending, and details on plans to spend the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.
“It is refreshing to note that 115 ordinary Nigerians donated between N1 and N100 to support the authorities’ efforts to fight COVID-19, despite the fact that it is the country’s poorest and most disadvantaged sectors of the population that continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a huge lesson for public officials and politicians about the idea of public service to one’s country. It also sends a powerful message about the need for politicians to see public office as an opportunity to serve and give something back to the country, and not a place to mismanage, steal or divert the people’s commonwealth into private pockets for personal benefits.
“We welcome your demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability, and hope other public officials and institutions would emulate and learn from the good example you have shown by honouring and respecting FoI Act as a matter of routine and practice.
“We would therefore be grateful to receive more specific details and additional information on the spending of N34.4bn between April and July, and details on plans to spend the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.
“Of the N36.3bn public funds and donations received, N1.4bn came from Nigerians and companies through accounts at the First Bank; Access Bank; GTB, Zenith, and UBA, while N536m donations were made through the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN]. The N536 donations comprise of N89m and N279m from the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.
“In addition, China General Chambers of Commerce in Nigeria donated N48m; the Petroleum Equalization Management Board gave N50m while the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board donated N70m.
“We would be grateful if the requested details and additional information are provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP and CODE shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request.”
Specifically, the groups are asking Idris to provide to them with the following: details and breakdown of where the N34.4 billion public funds from the Federal Government came from, and whether or not the money was duly appropriated by the National Assembly, details of specific projects and activities on which the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has spent the N22.16 billion, which represents 72 percent of the money spent, including how the spending has directly or indirectly benefited Nigerians, as well as details of names of any such beneficiaries.
Others are details and breakdown of money, if any, spent to provide personal protective equipment to Nigerian doctors and medical workers who are at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19 and details and breakdown of the N7 billion given to 36 states, and the specific amount of money collected by each state.
This money represents 23 per cent of the total amount spent within four months and details and breakdown of the N877 million 2.9 per cent of the money spent by the Nigerian Air Force for deployment of assets in support of COVID-19 operations, as well as the nature of any such operations; details and breakdown of the N500 million [1.6 per cent of the money] spent by the Nigeria Police on personal protective equipment.
The groups said the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation should also take steps to approach and request from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, and the 36 states any of the details highlighted above, if the information is not held by your Office, in line with the provisions of the FoI Act.