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Femi Falana, Covid-19 fund and the art of misrepresentation

Femi Falana, Covid-19 fund and the art of misrepresentation

There is a viral video where human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, made allusion to the sum of N135billion given to the 36 states in December 2023 at a memorial event in honour of Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti.

It is important to state here that Mr. Falana has a strong reputation for exaggerations and embellishments. What the Lagos lawyer rendered in that trending video was total misrepresentation of facts. He also did not tell his audience the real reason the said amount was released to the States under the World Bank-funded NG-CARES Programme.

Contrary to the wrong impression of wasteful and frivolous spending being conveyed to the public by Mr. Falana, it should be stressed that it is the Lagos lawyer who needs to get himself acquainted with the issue in contention.

Read also: Nigeria can repay its COVID-19 fund, says IMF

Here are the facts:

One: The whole global economy is still reeling from the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic with the attendant disruptions to the global supply chain, which the world is yet to fully recover from.

Two: Covid-19 exacerbated poverty around the world, especially as a result of loss of livelihoods in rural communities and among the urban poor.

Three: Post-Covid-19, the World Health Organisation and World Bank are still supporting countries to strengthen their health systems and emergency preparedness so nations can be in much better position to deal with other public health emergencies that may occur in future. Just last year, there was an outbreak of Diphtheria, monkeypox, and Lassa Fever in more than 20 states in Nigeria that government effectively contained.

In a bid to further manage the aftermath of Covid-19 in line with the framework of the WHO and the World Bank, the Federal Government, in December 2023, disbursed N135.4billion to the states following Independent Assessment of results achieved under the Nigeria Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme. The money, which Mr. Falana attempted to scandalise in the viral video, was released to address social and economic crisis created by Covid-19. This is not peculiar to Nigeria. Every country in the world today is still dealing with many socio-economic problems caused by Covid-19.

The aim of the NG-CARES Programme backed by World Bank, which is being implemented in all the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, is to mitigate the economic and social shocks faced by vulnerable people, who are yet to get their livelihoods back as a result of the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic. The project is structured as one that delivers results. Only states that have implemented according to laid-down procedures prescribed in the Financing Agreement, the Funds Release Policy, and the Independent Verification Agent Protocol get reimbursement for the money already spent.

Therefore, the money Mr. Falana mentioned with the intent to ridicule the Federal Government and incite the public against the government and President Tinubu was disbursed based on the results achieved by the States and FCT in their efforts at supporting poor and vulnerable Nigerians under the NG-CARES Programme.

Read also: Budget blues: Nigeria shortchanges its future, health with underfunding

The “top three best performing states in the Second Round of Assessment are Nasarawa, which got N13,697,828,496.96, Cross River N10,944,747,818.84 and Zamfara N10,231,055,267.82,” according to NG-CARES National Coordinator, Abdulkarim Obaje, in a statement.

While government needs critics as watchdogs for accountability and to engender more transparency in the management of public affairs and finance, that sacred duty should not be left in the hands of those who have elevated half-truths and embellishments as their article of trade. Criticisms should be constructive and fact-based.

 

-Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity