President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Thursday, applauded members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for their efforts in the management of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
He advised the Task Force to have better coordination of the donations received from public-spirited individuals, corporate bodies and Institutions to avoid duplications or the relevant bodies working at cross purposes.
The Senate President gave the advice at a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and members of the Task Force on COVID-19 led by its chairman, Boss Mustapha who is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF).
The meeting was also attended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, principal officers and members of the relevant Senate and House Committees.
Lawan explained that the essence and focus of the meeting was for the Leaders of the National Assembly to engage with the PTF to understand clearly what the Task Force has been doing.
He said “Let me also say that this is a partnership. As you work from that side of government, we are to work with you from this side and it will take the two arms, particularly the Executive and Legislature, to implement the kind of efforts to manage and control the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
“So I want to commend you for the work you have been doing. I want to also take this opportunity to commend the Nigerian medical personnel. They have been doing quite a lot and of course commend Nigerians for showing understanding and supporting the government in its effort to manage and control the Coronavirus.
“Let me also commend those who have made donations for the government to have the resources to address this situation and also those who have been praying in our mosques, in our Churches for the Intervention of the Almighty God,” Lawan said.
The Senate President offered some advice to the Task Force whose job is primarily to coordinate the efforts of the Federal Government in containing the pandemic.
“I believe that there are certain things that we need to do and this is the right forum to air my views about them.
“First of all, you are supposed to be the custodian of all the challenges that we face as far as COVID-19 is concerned. If any state has a challenge, I am sure there is a proper structure and route for reporting, so that you take down the situation and take the necessary steps.
“So I want to appeal to all Nigerians across the states that this is where we should report our cases until such a time when other avenues will be stipulated.
“I also believe that you will know better what we need and where it is needed as far as the COVID-19 challenge is concerned and therefore, you will be the one to put up the request for intervention by the Federal Government.
“I believe that we face one critical challenge today in our fight against COVID-19. We have donations made by various organizations, corporate bodies and so on but it is my candid opinion that there is no coordination.
“Corporate Nigeria, I was told, as at Wednesday has gathered N22 billion, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), I was told, had 28 million dollars, CBN and the banks, I don’t know how much they have. The National Assembly, the ministers, and so many individuals and institutions have also made donations,” Lawan said.
The Senate President further suggested that the various donations to the government be remitted into a common platform against the multiple accounts presently witnessed
“I believe we must have a central body and not the PTF nor the Corporate groups should receive and manage the funds but based on what the Constitution provides for.
“Where everybody is just collecting and spending, I think it will lead us into a very bad shape. When people contribute their funds, they want to see such funds properly utilized. They want to see efficiency. They want to see transparency. They want to see accountability and of course, probity in what the funds are used for.
“There could be duplication, working across purposes. At the end of the day, there will certainly be inefficiency in the application of such resources. But this meeting is going to give us the opportunity to discuss this and the way forward,” Lawan said.
The Senate President said this kind of interaction between the National Assembly and any section of the executive arm of government is to ensure good governance.
“We do so to ensure that performance is improved, that service delivery is effective and efficient. And that is our work. As we represent the people here, any program of government that we feel needs to be reformed or re-strategized for effective and efficient service delivery to Nigerians, we will insist because this is the only way to go.
“The entire essence of government is about service delivery. Nothing more – to protect lives and property and of course, the welfare of the people.
“This is in continuation of that drive to ensure that what we do with you today will enhance the performance of the Task Force and of course, government intention of controlling COVID-19 will be realised as quickly as possible.
“We must always remember that we are working for the people of this country and we are responsible and accountable to them,” Lawan said.
In his remarks, the PTF chairman, Boss Mustapha said for transparency and accountability, the Task Force would not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations for COVID-19.
“The Accountant-General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through some commercial banks and also provided the modalities for it’s utilisation.
“All the main COVID-19 accounts shall be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria. However, all non-cash donations shall be duly received by the PTF, acknowledged, documented and appropriately deployed,” the PTF chairman said.