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Despite missing out on N66.5bn support fund, Rivers says it’s winning the war against Covid-19

Rivers State has been in the news for being the only state that missed out on the N66.5 billion ($175m) Covid-19 support fund, but the state government has said it is ahead of others and is winning the war against the pandemic.

The secretary to Rivers State Government, Tammy Wenike Danagogo, said that the winning strategy adopted by Gov Nyesom Wike is recording huge success.

The FG had on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, announced the disbursement of N66.5bn to 35 eligible states on the basis of the Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget results achievement. Rivers State emerged the only state that did not qualify for the fund.

Rivers State also, according to the governor, did not bother to go to Calabar(cross river state)to lift their own palliative, saying it was a kind of insult to be asked to go to another state to do so.

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Now, according to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who spoke through Director of Press and Public Relations, Hassan Dodo, Rivers State was the only state that was not eligible for the financial grant. Ahmed explained that the disbursement followed compliance with the Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget by 35 eligible states in Nigeria.

She said the programme was wholly-financed with a loan of $750m from the International Development Association, a member of the world bank group, adding that each state received the total sum of N1.9bn (the equivalent of $5m).

The finance minister said the disbursement was under the performance-based grant component of the World Bank-assisted States

Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme-for results. The statement explained that Rivers State was the only one that missed out on the grant due to its inability to meet the eligibility criteria. It explained that the criteria required the states to have passed and published online on a state’s website by July 31, 2020, credible fiscally responsible COVID-19 Responsive Amended 2020 Budgets duly approved by the state House of Assembly and assented to by the governor.

Ahmednotedthattheamended 2020 State Budget must also include standardised budget documentation to enhance clarity, transparency and accessibility.“it must also significantly lower the gross statutory revenue projections, consistent with the revised Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Federal Government’s budget; reduced non-essential overhead and capital expenditures.

“Thebudgetmustbetaggedand found to have allocated at least 10 per cent of the total expenditure of the amended budget for COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery programmes; and identified credible sources to fully finance the budget deficit to avoid an accumulation of arrears.”

Ahmed said the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic and fiscal shocks had put significant pressure on states’ fiscal resources and undermined the reality and credibility of the states’ original 2020 annual budgets.

Apparently reacting, the state government noted that Corona Virus cannot be described as a mere disease as it has become a major global security challenge that has negatively affected all fascia of human co-existence adding that the government of Rivers State is successfully overcoming those challenges.

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