Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over funds released for the fight against coronavirus.
The organisation asked the President to “urgently instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor spending by federal agencies and state governors to combat Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria.”
SERAP said this “would remove the risks of corruption and mismanagement in our healthcare systems that are already weakened by systemic corruption.”
In the letter dated 20 March, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization wrote:
“Coronavirus crisis requires quick responses but it also requires corruption safeguards to ensure public funds are well spent, and promote access to basic public health and other services to those most in need.
“By prioritising transparency and accountability in the spending of funds to combat coronavirus, your government will be taking preventive measures to ensure that the efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic and promote the health and safety of Nigerians are not compromised by corruption.”
The group further expressed “concern that systemic corruption in the health sector across the country would hurt the federal and state authorities’ responses to the coronavirus crisis.”
It added that the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic also showed the urgent need for the Federal Government to improve Nigeria’s health systems and to encourage state governors to commit some parts of their security votes to provide additional resources towards strengthening the health systems within their states.
“Your government ought to move swiftly to increase spending on efforts to combat coronavirus in the country and provide funding support to Nigerians that are most affected by the crisis, by presenting COVID-19 budget/spending plan to the National Assembly and setting up a COVID-19 trust fund to which wealthy individuals and others should be encouraged to contribute.
“The proposed increase in spending of funds on COVID-19 means accountability for those funds should be top of your government’s list of priorities, if it is to remove opportunities for corruption that can undermine initiatives to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The EFCC and ICPC should ensure that anyone found to have mismanaged or stolen public funds meant for addressing the coronavirus pandemic are effectively prosecuted and punished,” SERAP said.