Following the speculations of mismanagement of the funds allocated for the handling of Coivid-19 outbreak in the Nigeria, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 appeared before the house of representatives to give account of its spending.
Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts and leader of the joint committees, Mr Wole Oke, said the “engagement” (hearing) was to monitor the expenditure by the PTF and clear the air on “insinuations” about COVID-19 funds.
Both the Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and the Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire, were represented by permanent secretaries, as both were absent from the meeting.
The Permanent Secretary, Office of the SGF, Olusegun Adekunle, disclosed that a total of N22,163,130,411 have been released to the PTF’s operations account.
“Out of this, what has been utilized is N164,929,475 to cater for the management of the affairs of returnees (evacuees) from different parts of the world,” he said according Punch Newspaper.
Adekunle also said the balance remains in the account, opened by the Accountant-General of the Federation with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, and Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu attended the hearing.
Approximately N164.93 million was spent for “management of the affairs of evacuees? Looking at the evacuation guidelines and instructions issued by the Nigeria Foreign Affairs Ministry, one cannot help but wonder where and how this money was spent.
Recall Nigerians who were being evacuated have been told that they will bear the cost of their evacuation, flight and hotel bill for mandatory isolation.
Read also; CBN to Provide up to N500 Mn for Nigerian Vaccine, Drugs and Herbal Medicines
The information about evacuees bearing the cost of their evacuation was contained in one of the guidelines seen by Investogist “Guidelines for the evacuation of Nigerian nationals in the United Kingdom, in the wake of the corona virus (covid-19) pandemic” issued by Nigeria High Commission London on 4 May 2020.
The Guideline read in part “the prospective evacuees will be required to pay the sum of £425 (four hundred and twenty five British Pounds) each for the cost of the flight.” This is equivalent to about N209,000 using current I&E window exchange rate.
This guideline for UK evacuees was posted in a tweet by the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital & New Media.
The first evacuation flight for Nigerians in the UK should be on its way as I post this. (Will land in Lagos, and everyone will be immediately airlifted to Abuja, for mandatory quarantine). Here are guidelines issued by the Nigerian High Commissioner in London for that flight. pic.twitter.com/btQiOsCAFj
— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) May 8, 2020
The cost of evacuation differs from country to country.
Premium Times reported on 15 May, that Nigerians stranded in Thailand were asked to pay nearly N300,000 quarantine fee. This was contained in a letter to the evacuees signed by the Head of Chancery, Nigerian Mission in Thailand, Nicholas Uhomoibhi, and dated May 14, 2020.
As stated in the letter, the evacuees are to pay N297,000 for their accommodation and feeding ahead of their arrival in Nigeria.
Read more; Nigeria Headed for a Deeper Recession, to Shrink by 8.9%: Finance Minister
“In this regard, all prospective evacuees are to note the negotiated rate: Accommodation, N15,000 for 16 days (N240,000); Feeding, N3,600 for 16 days (N57,000). Total, N297,000.”
“Kindly note that the rates were negotiated in Nigeria and the embassy has been directed not to airlift any evacuees who fail to pay the fees.”
Whereas Nigerians stranded in India were asked to pay N865,700 for flight, feeding and accommodation before evacuation, according to Sahara Reporters on 15 May, 2020.
In another development, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Monday 18 May, during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 disclosed that the cost of feeding and accommodation of evacuees, due to the Coronavirus pandemic would be borne by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
He said the move to get the CBN and NNPC to bear the costs was initiated “after getting all the barrage from all around the world including that we were somehow conspiring with hotels to fleece Nigerians and make money for ourselves and other kinds of accusations.”
“I got in touch with the governor of the CBN and he generously agreed. He said the amount I was talking about is over a billion naira because we have over 4000 Nigerians out there and if over 3000 of them comes back, the cost of feeding and accommodation is over a billion naira that we don’t have. He said he was ready to share the cost with the NNPC” he said.
“I spoke with the GMD of NNPC and he said he was going to consult and thanks be to God today (Monday), he got back to me and he said he was going to meet with the governor of CBN and together they will fund this portion, a very important one, the feeding and accommodation of the evacuees.”
Read further; FOREX forecast for the week ahead: 8th June to 12th June
On 27 May, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, during the Presidential Task Force media briefing announced the suspension of the evacuation of Nigerians in diaspora until a new structure is put in place to handle the evacuees.
He said, ”we have been asked to cease all evacuation for now until the whole structure is put in place.” He added that the new structure would be in place the following week.
As thousands of Nigerians await to be evacuated from India, China and all over the world, Foreign Affairs Minister of Nigeria Geoffrey Onyeama on 3 June wrote in a tweet, “So with the new mechanism that was brought into force, was the requirement of testing 5 days before boarding. We contacted the private sector behind these initiatives, the feedback was that it will be ready soon.”
“I really offer my profound regret and apologies for these situations and really hope that very soon, the mechanism will be ready as quickly as possible and we will be able to bring our compatriots in India and all over the world back home”
I really offer my profound regret and apologies for these situations and really hope that very soon, the mechanism will be ready as quickly as possible and we will be able to bring our compatriots in India and all over the world back home. #StayHomeSaveLives #COVID19 @NigeriaGov
— Geoffrey Onyeama (@GeoffreyOnyeama) June 2, 2020
On Monday, during the Presidential Task Force briefing, the Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu announced that the evacuation of Nigerians will resume soon. He issued new guidelines which includes mandatory testing for Covid-19 less than 14 days before evacuation.
Nigerians who test positive will not be allowed to board the evacuation flight. Intending evacuees will also be required to sign an undertaking promising to abide by the guidelines and safety precautions put in place. This is a requirement for boarding.
Leave a Reply