President Buhari, National Assembly Leaders Meet To Handle Coronavirus Funds

President Muhammadu Buhari discussed yesterday with Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila on the organization of COVID-19 donation management by some Nigerians.

The National Assembly leadership also tabled before the President the need for a two-month free electricity for the citizenry observing the lockdown ordered by President Buhari.

Speaking with State House correspondents after the meeting held behind closed doors, the Senate President said the meeting dwelt much on the efforts by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and equitable distribution of the palliatives.

He said: “The leadership of the National Assembly has been holding series of meetings with Ministers and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and this afternoon we had an engagement with the President to discuss with him what we have resolved as leaders of the National Assembly and our opinion on various issues regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria as well as going forward.

“For example, the various donations that we are receiving should go into a single account and should have a fund management committee that would be in charge of releases. Accountability and transparency require that we have that separation.

“It is also an opportunity for us to commend Nigerians and corporate bodies that have given us donations but we believe there should be more coordination as far as the management of the funds is concerned. I believe the Presidential Task Force is doing a very good job, they have been very proactive and they deserve our commendation.”

Senator Lawan also called for a review of the way the social investment programme of government was being implemented to reach more Nigerians, especially the category of people the programme was meant for.

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He said: “We also believe that it is time to reform the manner we implement the social investment programme. This is a very important programme that is meant to help the poor and vulnerable Nigerians and we believe that having implemented it for four years or more, we should review to evaluate the efficiency with which we have been implementing the programme.

“I believe that we also need to legislate on how to fight poverty in Nigeria because this is one issue that has been there for quite some time and, therefore, there is need for us to have a very clear and well spelt out processes and procedures on how to tackle poverty.

“There should be very little or no room for discretion so that we have a programme that will be very transparent and should go deep down to those who really deserve to have the support and should be such an equitable and fair programme as far the geographical spread across the country is concerned.”

He said that the National Assembly was on standby to reconvene and thrash the issue of the N500 billion stimulus package on cushioning the effects of COVID-19 proposed by government when presented to it.

Also speaking, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said they discussed the issue of providing free electricity for Nigerians as result of the lockdown on COVID-19, so as to make them more comfortable as they stay at home.

He said: “You know I am very passionate about electricity for our people. Interestingly, I brought it up today (yesterday) and we discussed that with the President and hopefully in a matter of days he will meet with the stakeholders on electricity. I impressed on him my position, the DISCOs have their issues, no question about it but at this point in time we need to put that aside and think of the Nigerian people.”

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“The President listened very attentively and I think hopefully whatever the issues are we will be able to resolve them at least for these two months and then long-term, how electricity will not be an issue but what is imperative right now, is when you ask people to remain at home, you must make that home a little bit comfortable for them.”

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