COVID-19: States demand release of N67.2bn grant

Following the continued dwindling of their economic fortunes as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, states have urged the Federal Government to urgently release the about N67.2 billion support fund it promised to extend to them.

The Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, had on Monday announced that only four states, namely Lagos, Kano, Jigawa and Ogun have received the funds.

However, speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja, Commissioner for Health in Cross River State and acting chairperson of Commissioners for Health Forum in Nigeria, Dr. Betta Edu, said states are now financially overstretched and needed to be bailed out.

According to her, the pandemic has impacted negatively on the internally generated revenues of the states, adding that many States can barely pay salaries and meet other financial obligations, hence the need to release the funds.

She said: “There was a total lockdown in all the states. Most states can’t pay salaries. Their internally generated revenues went down. The Federal Government needs to release the promised N2.1 billion for States to help them tackle this pandemic.

“Only few States have been given something. I think Lagos, Ogun, Kano and Jigawa. The rest are yet to get the support funds. States need these funds to help them fight the spread of the virus.

“States may not have enough sample collection kits. This is like a marathon race and states are already overstretched financially. States need to be able to train people who can collect samples in all the local governments. States need to be able to set up designated places where these samples can be collected.

“We cannot be speaking from the two sides of our mouth. Go to the markets in every State. People are just living as if the virus does not exist. People don’t wear face masks and our lifestyles don’t encourage social distancing at all.

“We want to see more of support from the Federal Government to states to enable them build more resilient healthcare systems. We also want to see a system where we can have a universal healthcare coverage. There are no insurance packages in many states.’’

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