Following the spate of donations and interventions to tackle the current pandemic threatening the Nigerian healthcare system and other aspects of the nation’s wellbeing, leading non-governmental organization, Connected Development (CODE), is holding the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to transparency standards.
According to CODE, trust in Nigerian public institutions has recently been measured by lack of transparency, poor accountability and poor communication. However, the current crisis provides an opportunity for the Nigerian Government to regain citizens’ trust in its fight to end the COVID-19 Pandemic.
While commending donations by well-meaning Nigerians and Organisations, 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.
In a response tweet to Lawal the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, had stated that NNPC and its 30 partners donating about N11 billion “will donate in kind and donors will follow their company procurement processes to deliver on their pledges.”  Which partner donated what? How much is cash and how much is in kind? The vagueness of this response makes it impossible to hold either NNPC, its partners or the NCDC to account.
Nigerians must be given comprehensive data of interventions, recipient organisations of this fund and how judiciously they are being expended.  Where is the breakdown of the 50% contribution by the 43 Cabinet ministers who pledged half of their March 2020 Salary to support the FG effort to combat the COVID 19 pandemic in the country?
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.” How is the Presidential Task Force looking to effect this? What measures have 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 ministries to champion a culture of transparency, consistency and high-quality communications. The Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) must also monitor the fund to ensure all forms of financial leakages are blocked.
CODE will utilize its social accountability platform www.ifollowthemoney.org with over 5300 members and its well structured community mobilization strategy to advocate strongly for improved health-care facilities for all as the nation combats COVID-19. Citizens will be provided 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.
Recall, CODE had severally urged the Federal Government and the Ministry of Health to prioritise the Nation’s healthcare sector, our call for accountability & transparency in the sector was to prepare the country to tackle challenges that a pandemic like #COVID19 presents.
Although we are disturbed that the existing healthcare structure in the nation is not sufficient to combat the pandemic, especially with the prediction that COVID 19 cases in Nigeria may rise to up to 39,000, we are hopeful that the interventions and other non-monetary resources can cushion the gaps and develop Nigeria’s healthcare system.