Covid-19 Pallaitives and efforts of Follow the Money Tracking

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Hamzat Lawal

YBTC News-The global health emergency in the guise of Coronavirus, which is also called COVID-19, did not come with the crisis of the deadly pandemic, only.

It also midwived the birth of other variants of economic and social crises, in many countries, across the world. No thanks to the novel virus, a million jobs were lost, even as the global economy is still reeling under the pandemic’s shocking emergence.

To cushion the excruciating hardship of their citizens, not a few countries, unveiled life-bettering welfare schemes, while also providing their citizens with necessary palliatives and basic relief materials.

The Federal Government, following the outbreak of the scourge in the country, announced laudable plans and subsequently distributed cash to vulnerable people in the society, while also providing them with other palliatives.

But for many, passing a camel through the needle’s eye will be much easier, than coming across starkly-impoverished Nigerians, who actually benefitted from the government’s kind gesture.

Contrastingly, the FG itself received huge foreign currencies donated by a coalition of the private sector biggest players in the country, and several international organisations such as the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), China, the United States and Jack Ma Foundation, and several others.

In order to ensure that the donated funds are properly deployed and judiciously utilized, Connected Development (CODE), like other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs), strongly advocated for a transparent disbursement of the funds.

The clarion call of NGOs like CODE, was certainly not alarmist, especially if the way and manner public funds have been brazenly diverted and recklessly mismanaged by our public servants and politicians, over the years, are taken into consideration.

Recalled that in March, CODE, a leading non-governmental organization, held the Federal Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on their transparency standards.

This followed donations made and interventions rendered to tackle the current pandemic of COVID-19.

According to CODE, trust in Nigerian public institutions have recently been measured by lack of transparency, poor accountability and poor communication.

While commending well-meaning Nigerians and organisations for their generous donations, CODE’s Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, noted that although donations have risen to N44 billion, there is no clarity from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health on proper collation and disbursement.

He argued that Nigerians must be given comprehensive data of interventions, recipient organisations of this fund and how judiciously they are being expended.

His words: “President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed in his COVID-19 speech that all contributions and donations be coordinated and centralized to ensure efficient and impactful spending.

“We need to know how the Presidential Task Force hopes to effect this and what measures the Ministry of Health, the NCDC and the Ministry of Finance put in place to collect, aggregate funds and ensure proper utilization?

“These are pertinent questions that require timely responses. Now is the time for the government and ministries to champion a culture of transparency, consistency and high-quality communications.”

Lawal disclosed that CODE is utilizing its social accountability platform, www.ifollowthemoney.org, with over 6000 members, and its well-structured community mobilization strategy to advocate strongly for improved healthcare facilities for all, as the nation combats COVID-19.
“These activists are deployed all over the country, and they are currently monitoring COVID-19 funds and palliatives distribution in their various states.

Citizens are provided with online tools to monitor, drive conversation to spark actions and advocate for a transparent and inclusive approach, urging government stakeholders to make public all funds released for the fight against COVID-19 and its implementation plans,” he said.

CODE, whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa, is the architect of “Follow The Money” (FTM) initiative.

FTM helps to advocates and tracks government/international aid spending in health, WASH, and education across grassroots and communities to promote and ensure open government and service delivery.

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, FTM launched a project dubbed #FollowCOVID19Money – a campaign to torch-light and scrutinise the utilization of emergency funds and donations against corruption and abuse in Africa.

The campaign is used to aggregate, analyse data and demand transparency and accountability on COVID-19 funds and donations.

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