ABUJA, April 4 (Reuters) - Nigeria plans to create a 500 billion naira ($1.39 billion)coronavirus fund to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure to tackle the virus, the government said on Saturday.
Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed, House of Representatives speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and Senate President Ahmad Lawan agreed in a meeting that the crisis intervention fund would pull in cash as loans from various special government accounts and get the rest from grants and loans from multilateral institutions, a statement said. “This cisis intervention fund is to be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities,” Ahmed said in the statement.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest nation, has 209 confirmed cases of coronavirus and four deaths. Lagos state, neighboring Ogun state and the capital territory of Abuja entered a two-week lockdown on Monday aimed at stemming the spread of the virus. The IMF is making $50 billion available from its emergency financing facilities and some 80 countries have already asked for help, including about 20 from Africa. The World Bank has also approved a $14 billion COVID-19 response package.
Last week, Nigeria’s Central Bank also launched a drive to raise 120 billion naira from the private sector to source equipment and infrastructure to fight the pandemic.
The proposed fund would require approval from the National Assembly in order to borrow the money from special accounts, and Lawan said that while the body was on a two-week hiatus aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus, it would work to pass a bill to enable the borrowing plan. “When there is need for us to meet or to take legislative actio n in support of ensuring that the government responds appropriat ely to developments issues and challenges in the country, we wil l do so,” Lawan said. ($1 = 360 naira) (Reporting By Camillus Eboh; writing by Libby George; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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