September 27, 2021

Plateau trains Officials to disburse N7.6bn Covid-19 fund

115 desk officers trained to disburse a World Bank Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) fund in 17 LGAs of Plateau State

Plateau State on Wednesday began training desk officers for the disbursement of a $20million (₦7.610billion) Covid-19 support fund to local businesses.

Five Officials from each of the State’s 17 Local Government Areas are being trained for three days along with staff of the State’s microfinance agency to verify businesses applying for the “Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) fund, their financial and credit records as well as their performance before and after Covid-19.

“The failure of one of us can affect the entire State. It can affect Result Area 1, 2 and 3 and that is why we must teach our implementing Officials the rudiments of the program before we start disbursement,” said Mr. Haggai Gutap, the program’s Administrative Head of Plateau State CARES Coordinating Unit.

Another training, Mr. Gutap said will be done for the State’s implementing platforms – Fadama III, Plateau State Microfinance Development Agency (PLASMIDA) and Community Service Development Agency.

“We are trying to respond to an emergency and we need to be on the same page – understanding and executing the program with the same vision and vigor for the benefit of the State,” Gutap said.

Many related programs in the past failed for lack of proper implementation, sequel to poor awareness and expertise among implementing agents, said Bomkam Wuyep, the program Coordinator for Micro, Small and Medium Scale Entreprises otherwise called “Result Area 3”. But with proper training, Bomkam said a target of 40,000 people would be reached with the intervention, thereby reducing “significantly” the negative effects of Covid-19 on businesses and families.

Last year, the World Bank Group (WBG) approved a $1.5-billion package to help build a resilient recovery post-COVID19. This was part of a new five-year Country Partnership Framework (CPF) from 2021 to 2024. The approved $1.5 billion fund covers the NigeriaCovid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus – Program for Results (Nigeria CARES).

N-CARES is financed through an International Development Association (IDA) credit, to the tone of $750 million. “The program will help increase access to social transfers and basic services, as well as provide grants to poor and vulnerable households. It will also strengthen food supply chains for poor households while facilitating recovery and enhancing capabilities of MSMEs,” said a WBG press release in December 2020.

Another project under the fund include theState Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Program for Results (SFTAS) Additional Financing. This is an existing program expanded and scaled up in response to COVID-19.

The Additional Financing will help meet the financing gap in the Program Expenditure Framework, due to the sharp reduction in government revenues associated with the crisis. It will help increase the efficiency in spending, strengthen revenue mobilization, and enhance accountability and transparency in public resource management to further strengthen state-level COVID-19 response. The project is financed through an International Development Association (IDA) credit of $750 million.

Nigeria is thought to have been worse hit by the economic effects of covid-19 than the health emergency. With sharp fall in oil prices as a result of COVID-19, the economy was projected to contract by over 4% in 2020, plunging the country into its deepest recession since the 1980s. Many families lost their sources of income and businesses shut down due to lockdowns and cashflow deficits. But the World Bank fund would provide support to recover and possibly survive future disasters.

Beneficiaries under the N-CARES program must however prove that they took loans before covid-19 and were unable to repay during the pandemic, Officials say. The fund will provide 40% loan relief (emergency operation) for 24months. An aggressive media campaign for the program is expected to start by the end of the ongoing training for distribution agents.