Govs, NCDC Sign MoU on World Bank-assisted Fund

Chikwe Ihekweazu

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) yesterday in Abuja signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the World Bank N3.7 billion COVID-19 response support to states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Accordingly, Nigeria COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project (NIGERIA CoPREP) was jointly signed by the Chairman of the NGF, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and NCDC Chairman, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.

Ihekweazu disclosed that the MoU for the N3.7 billion (N100 million to each state and the FCT) was to enable states access the fund, which would be paid directly to a dedicated account of each state government, after meeting the necessary requirements.

He said the objective of the fund supported by the World Bank was to prevent, detect and response to threat posed by COVID-19 at the state level in Nigeria.

“Since last year, we have already stated that our focus for this year would be on the states. Even before this outbreak, our strategic direction in NCDC was to support the state to build health facilities.

“We did not know where we will get the resources from and we did not know that we will be confronted with an outbreak of this extent.

“Sadly, from January, we have been faced with this challenge across the world.

“We have come to the realisation that we have to invest in the health sector. We cannot do that at the federal level alone. We have to do it at both the state and local government levels,” Ihekweazu said.

He said the NCDC had come to collective agreement with the World Bank to use part of the Regional Surveillance System Enhancement (REDISSE) project to accelerate the development of the state health facilities.

The NCDC boss pledged to accelerate the process of ensuring that states access the fund to make sure that specifically they respond to COVID-19 outbreak while future fund could focus on building states capacity in the long run.

In his remarks, Fayemi commended the NCDC and the World Bank for their supports to the states, especially in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they have been of great assistance to the all the states.

He said the governors saw the fund as a vehicle to help the states to enhance the infrastructure, particularly at the primary healthcare level, and work more with other relevant agencies

Fayemi noted that the support fund, when finally accessed by states, would go a long way in the development of the health facilities at the state level.

“For us, what is critical is not just to see the end to this pandemic, if there would be an end. However, what is more important to us is that we do not waste this chances, but to use them to build the health infrastructure all over the 36 states of the federation,” Fayemi stated.

World Bank Operations Manager, Kathleen Whimp, in her remarks, said the signing of the MoU was an opportunity for NCDC to reach for better as well as strengthen its engagement with the states.

“It is not just about addressing the outbreak, it is also about forging links between federal and state governments, which is very critical for Nigeria’s development,” she stated.

Also, presenting an overview on the NCDC support for COVID-19 response at state level, the Centre RESDISSE Project Coordinator, Kemi Ladedeinde, said there were two facilities supported by the World Bank to assist the COVID-19 response in the country through NCDC.

These, according to Ladeinde, were RESDISSE, a five-year project with the objective of strengthening Nigeria’s disease surveillance, laboratory strengthening, preparedness and public health emergency response capacity.