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 COVID-19: Rivers misses out as FG disburses N66.5bn to states

COVID-19: Rivers misses out as FG disburses N66.5bn to states


The Federal Government on Wednesday announced the disbursement of N66.5bn ($175m) to 35 eligible states on the basis of the Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget results achievement.

According to the government, Rivers State was the only state that was not eligible for the financial grant.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, announced this in a statement issued in Abuja by her ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Hassan Dodo.

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 (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.

Ahmed noted that the Amended 2020 State Budget must also include standardised budget documentation to enhance clarity, transparency and accessibility.

She was quoted as saying, “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.

“The budget must be tagged and 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 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.

She noted that a transparent, accountable and sustainable state-level fiscal/budget framework was a pre-requisite for a robust COVID-19 response, enabling necessary health, social protection and livelihood interventions during the COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery phases.

The minister expressed optimism that the achievement of results by the 35 states would further strengthen the national fiscal response to COVID-19 and align efforts at both the federal and state-levels.

She noted that the World Bank-assisted SFTAS Programme was principally meant to strengthen fiscal management at the state level, so as to ensure effective mobilisation and utilisation of financial resources to the benefit of the citizens.

Ahmed observed that the SFTAS programme could not have come at a better time, given the dwindling government revenue occasioned by oil price volatility coupled with the current impact of COVID-19.

She said this had further intensified the need for improved practices in fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability as enunciated in the SFTAS ideals.

The Federal Government had earlier in April 2020 disbursed N43.4bn ($120.6m) to the qualified 24 states based on their performance.

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