WorldStage Newsonline– In ensuring accountability and transparency of government spending and disbursement of the pandemic fund, Connected Development (CODE), a nongovernmental organization said it had tracked a total amount of N97 billion of COVID-19 funds in Nigeria, through its Follow The Money campaign.
The tracking, according to CODE, was to ensure every money disbursed to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on citizens was appropriately utilized and accounted for by both the States and the Federal Government, and as a result, 4.8 million lives were directly impacted.
Speaking at CODE’s 2020 Annual Report Launch on Empowering Communities in Abuja, Chief Executive Officer, CODE, Hamzat Lawal said the report detailed the organisation’s record in tracking of N97 billion pandemic fund at both state and federal levels.
He said, “Each year at CODE, we take a moment to reflect on our work, and review insights from engaging with marginalized communities, our learnings and accomplishments. 2020 was a landmark year where we saw the impact of our work tested in many ways.
“Since our founding in 2012, we have relied on our ability to challenge the status quo and demand accountability from the government to drive social change in the communities where we work. Many of which have accelerated timely intervention in healthcare, water and hygiene services, education, environment and structural development in hundreds of low-income communities in Nigeria and six other African countries.”
He further said that, “With the rising levels of poverty, inequality and despair, orchestrated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our work, addressing systemic corruption in government and poor transparency and accountability, becomes increasingly crucial.
“Today, CODE has tracked N97 billion of COVID-19 funds at State and Federal levels in Nigeria, advocated for the national emergency procurement guidelines to be updated, pushed for the prioritization of the country’s failing healthcare infrastructure, tracked COVID palliative distribution in 257 communities across Africa, and increased its socio-digital community of over 7,000 activists who are driving solutions and holding government to transparency standards across Africa.”
CODE in the Report said the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) revealed that the federal government received N36.3 billion and spent N30 billion in four months to fight the pandemic. Further breakdown indicated that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 spent N22 billion, 36 States spent N7 billion; the Nigerian Air Force spent N877 million, and the Nigeria Police Force spent N500 million.
Also, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development received N46 million from international agencies and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to provide palliative support to women in 16 states.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Aviation got N652 million from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and awarded contracts for the supply of essential COVID-19 items to both the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
According to the organisation, “beyond home wins, CODE in partnership with BudgIT, a fiscal transparency organisation, expanded its scope area by activating COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Pan-African Project (CTAP), a pan-african tracking system for all COVID-19 funds received and donated in seven African countries including Nigeria.
“The other countries are; Liberia, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Sierra leone. One consistent gap noticed across the countries is poor procurement processes, fund embezzlement and lack of government’s transparency.”
It was also disclosed that, “With COVID-19 exacerbating the poor state of education across Nigeria, CODE adopted a unique approach to tackling the menace.
Starting with Adamawa State, CODE noted that it successfully sensitized 10,000 residents in Fufore Local Government Area (LGA) and Yola south LGA on the need to increase girl-child enrollment and retention in schools, and this immediately set a new precedence as traditional leaders and community chiefs began deliberating on how to advance girl-child enrollment in schools.
On the aspect of Sexual and Gender-based Violence, CODE said that COVID-19, tagged as a shadow pandemic, led to the alarming rise of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria, adding that Reports show that between March and April 2020, the country recorded a 56 percent increase in gender-based violence cases in 24 states.
According to CODE, “The increasing rate of SGBV cases triggered a nation-wide revolt, with CODE and several Civil Society Organization (CSOs) rising to demand the domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) and Child Rights Act in all states of the federation. Currently, 18 out of 36 states have domesticated the VAPP Act”.
The Report also stated that, “As CODE works to promote gender inclusion in all spheres of the Nigerian society, especially in leadership and governance, the organization recorded a huge milestone when through its advocacy and intervention, for the first time on September 23, 2020, women of Obodo-Ugwa, Delta State, participated at the Community Development Committee (CDC) meeting where issues of rural governance and development were deliberated.
“On another front and in reaping the fruits of advocacy, a 22-day online campaign led to the construction of a water system for residents of Sabongeri-Nedeji, a community in Edu LGA of Kwara State, which previously relied on a huge puddle of unclean water as its primary source.”