Fred Itua, Abuja
As the fight against COVID-19 enters a critical stage in Nigeria, State Governments have urged the Federal Government to release the N2.1 billion support fund it promised to extend to States.
Only four States, namely Lagos, Kano, Jigawa and Ogun, have so far reportedly received the promised funds by the Federal Government.
The Commissioner for Health in Cross River State and Acting Chairman of Commissioners for Health Forum in Nigeria, Dr Betta Edu, in a media chat in Abuja, said States were financially overstretched and needed to be helped financially.
She said during the countrywide lockdown, States’ internally generated revenues were affected. Dr Edu further explained that many States can barely pay salaries and meet other financial obligations.
‘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 a 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,’ she explained.
She further advocated for funding of the healthcare system in the country and provision of universal healthcare package for every citizen.
‘States may not have enough sampling 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 can’t be speaking from the two sides of our mouth. Go to the markets in every State. People are just living as if the virus doesn’t 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 to build more resilient healthcare systems. We also want to see a system where we can have universal healthcare. No insurance packages in many States,’ she added.