The National Assembly on Tuesday advocated for the establishment of Fund Committee to manage donations from individuals and organisations in support of the ongoing crusade against COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, made the call at the end of a strategic engagement between President Muhammadu Buhari and the NASS leadership over national issues including the Coronavirus disease at the State House, Abuja.
Lawan, who was in company of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that the committee, when constituted, would ensure proper and effective utilization of the various donations made so far. 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 donated is concerned.” Lawan commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for working hard to curb the spread of the deadly virus in the country. “I believe the Presidential Task Force is doing a very good job, they have been very proactive and they deserve our commendation,” he added. On Social Investment Programme, the Senate President called for a review of the way and manner the programme was being implemented to enable more poor and vulnerable citizens benefit from it. “We also believe that it is time to reform the way and manner we implement the social investment programme. “This is a very important programme that is meant to help poor and vulnerable Nigerians and we believe that having implemented it for four years or more, we should be reviewing to evaluate the efficacy and 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. On palliative measures, the Senate President said the National Assembly is on standby to reconvene and deliberate on the issue of the N500 billion stimulus package meant to cushion the effects of COVID-19 proposed by government, when presented to it. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who also spoke on the outcome of the closed door meeting with the president, said they discussed the issue of providing free electricity for Nigerians as result of the lockdown order occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, the proposal is meant to make the citizens more comfortable as they stay at home. “You know I am very passionate about electricity for our people. Interestingly, I brought it up today 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. “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,” he said.