To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure, MSMEs and vulnerable Nigerians, critical stakeholders converged at a two-day retreat to evolve strategies for transparency and competence in the distribution of emergency intervention funds.
The retreat for members of the Federal COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Steering Committee was organised by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in Lagos.
Live and virtual experts at the forum stressed the need for leadership competencies to provide immediate succour through the emergency funds provided by the World Bank to states.
They called on governors to carefully study designs and implementation elements to understand the procedures and implications before signing for the proposed loans.
The event which ended on Saturday, had the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, in attendance.
The programme was part of the Federal Government’s intervention to ease the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on citizens, infrastructure and the economy with the support of the World Bank funding for states.
The Executive Director, Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Lateef Shittu, pledged the commitment of benefiting state governors to the success of the initiative to boost economic and social well-being of citizens.
Mr Shittu said the $750 million CARES programme which had been developed to support poor, vulnerable households, farmers, SMEs and facilities for the recovery of local economic activities was timely to revamp the national economy.
“As key stakeholders in the Nigerian agenda, the Nigerian governors forum and indeed all state governors of the federation applaud the programme,’’ he said
He said the secretariat of the NGF was ready to adopt best practices across the federation in the implementation of the programme.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, described the loan facility to be provided by the World Bank over a period of two years from 2020-2022 as ‘very noble and apt’.
He said the loan would help to provide some common facilities across the nation and also support for MSMEs in retooling and up-scaling their businesses.
He listed various programmes and policies of his ministry which he noted had “a robust process to reach the downtrodden“ in addition to collaboration with the Bank of Industry (BOI), and other partners.
Meanwhile, Mr Agba said the initiative was meant to provide members of the National Steering Committee of NCARES the opportunity to review the work the preparatory team had done in the last two months.
Mr Agba said ”lockdowns crumbled economic activities across the nation, caused massive job losses and supply chain disruptions to compound existing poverty and vulnerability levels in the nation before COVID-19.”
He explained that the best approach to fighting the recession was ‘investments, stating that putting more funds into economic growth was the only known stimulant for recovery.
He said that the combination of the government Intervention Fund and the World Bank loan if expended judiciously would tame job losses, guarantee food security and boost economic activities and livelihood.
“As every country is dealing with varying degrees of the COVID-19 problem, the global economy is also confronting its sharpest reversal in generations, with nowhere to turn to for help.
“The government has therefore set out funds for agriculture and SMEs, but more funds are still needed to pull us out of recession; and that was why the $750 million intervention loan from the World Bank is a welcome opportunity for the government, especially the state governments that are the ultimate beneficiaries of this loan,’’ he said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Nanono, while acknowledging the negative impacts of the pandemic listed efforts of his ministry to cushion the effects.
Mr Nanono called on committee members to pay attention to the design elements to ensure timely actualisation of objectives and gave assurances of his ministry’s support.