ABEOKUTA – The Ogun State Government has described as blatant falsehood, a news report which claimed that the Federal Government refused to make COVID-19 reimbursement to the state because of pervasive corruption.
In a statement e-signed and made available to StarTrend Int’l Magazine and online – www.startrendinternational.com by Mr. Kunle Somorin, the Chief Press Secretary to Ogun State Governor, the State Government said that contrary to the insinuations in the fake report, the Nigeria Covid-19 Action Recovery & Economic Stimulus (NG-Cares) programme is not a COVID-19 intervention, but a post-COVID economic stimulus packaged for poor and vulnerable people in the society, as well as Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME’s) that were most negatively affected by the pandemic in terms of disruptions to livelihoods and businesses respectively, adding that the states that had been reimbursed so far are only the first set of beneficiaries.
Somorin said the so-called bombshell report is mere comedy taken too far, as the authors decided to hold brief for the Federal Government without doing basic research.
Somorin added that the verification exercise is continuous and all eligible Ogun State Government post-COVID economic stimulus and related expenditures would be captured and adequately reimbursed in subsequent verification exercises, as each state of the Federation is eligible to receive up to $20m.
Tracing the origins of the programme, Somorin said: “The NG-Cares Program, funded by the World Bank, was originally designed as a loan to the 36 states.
“However, given the level of investments and costs expended by Ogun State during the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to investments in healthcare facilities and palliatives to ameliorate the suffering experienced by Ogun citizens at the time, and other subsequent socio-economic interventions such as Okowo-Dapo for women, employment of artisans for affordable housing construction, maintenance of public roads and planting materials palliatives for farmers, the Ogun State government decided not to take further loans.
“However, due to various engagements by the 36 states with the Federal Government and the World Bank on the need to re-structure the funding of the Program, the NG-Cares Program was recently changed to a Performance for Results (PfR) Grant program, and so the reimbursements to State Governments announced were the eligible expenses incurred and validated during the first verification exercise.”
According to him, at no time did the Ogun State Government lower the standards in its management of post Covid-19 intervention programmes, describing the authors of the report as political failures desperate for attention.
He added that the efforts of Ogun State, the first to record the index case in Nigeria, in the management of COVID-19 is second to none, adding that Ogun was the first to put a state-owned molecular laboratory in place during the pandemic, coupled with the various degrees of isolation centers in strategic locations of the state, including Olabisi Onabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital ( OOUTH), Sagamu, Model School Ikenne, General Hospital, Iberekodo, among other ones which were donated by private individuals.
According to him, the system put in place by the Prince Dapo Abiodun led government to manage the pandemic was inspected by the then Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control ( NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu and the Country Director of World Health Organisation( WHO), Dr. Fiona Braka, both of whom lauded the State Government for giving direction to other states on how to deal with the pandemic.
“Even the then Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunibe Mamora, during his visit to Abeokuta in March 2021, expressed satisfaction with the response activities of Ogun State to Covid-19, saying that the State has done excellently well.
Ogun State, it would be recalled won several awards for its proactiveness for the management of the pandemic and was adjudged the overall best performing State on Routine Immunisation (RI) and COVID-19 Vaccination by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
“Governor Abiodun is a man known to be committed to putting a round peg in a round hole without giving room for anything less than the best.
Speaking on the distribution of palliatives during the pandemic, the statement debunked the allegation of corruption in the exercise saying: “The governor set up an inter-ministerial committee, which was a task force in charge of palliatives and enforcing compliance during and after the lockdown. The Secretary to the State Government was at no time in charge of procurement in relation to Covid-19 just as it is worthy of note that no political appointees took Covid-19 palliatives as his or her private items for personal use.
“The CACOVID items were distributed based on the instructions of the donors, and our papers are there as proofs of how the distributions were done.
“The naysayers only brought the figments of their imaginations to the public space to ridicule themselves. We therefore advise the public to ignore these lies as our government remains committed to transparency and accountability in the efforts to fulfil our avowed electoral promises,” he said.