Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor spending by federal agencies and state governors to combat Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria.
According to SERAP, this move would reduce the incidence of corruption and mismanagement in the Coronavirus outbreak.
The letter was signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare and made available to Channels TV.
It read in part, “Coronavirus crisis requires quick responses but it also requires corruption safeguards to ensure public funds are well spent, and promote access to basic public health and other services to those most in need.
“By prioritising transparency and accountability in the spending of funds to combat coronavirus, your government will be taking preventive measures to ensure that the efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic and promote the health and safety of Nigerians are not compromised by corruption.”
SERAP also drew attention to the Nigerian health systems, which they described as ‘challenged’ and urged the government to quickly improve the sector so that the country could have a better-equipped response to such outbreaks.
The group observed the need to increase spending on efforts to combat the spread of the virus by setting up a COVID-19 Trust Fund to which wealthy individuals and corporate bodies could contribute, even while ensuring that all avenues of corruption are eliminated from the system.
“The EFCC and ICPC should ensure that anyone found to have mismanaged or stolen public funds meant for addressing the coronavirus pandemic are effectively prosecuted and punished,” it emphasized.
The group alluded to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and Liberia where patients reportedly paid bribes to access health services and urged the government to ensure that all Nigerians enjoy their right to health services, especially at these perilous times of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Why the need to monitor? Amidst mixed reactions, the National Assembly had on March 5, 2020, approved the release of N620 million to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), an amount budgeted for the emergency response to novel coronavirus.
A couple of weeks earlier, the Federal Government released N386 million in two batches, to two health agencies to strengthen Coronavirus (COVID19) preparedness in Nigeria and prevent an outbreak of the virus in the country.
Barely 7 days after the release of the first tranche, the first case of Coronavirus in Nigeria was confirmed in Lagos state.
Since then, several others have been detected and the total cases in Nigeria currently stand at 30.