By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Baba Adamu
Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Musa Bello, yesterday told the Senate committee on FCT that the territory spent N28.5billion on sundry activities to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic within Abuja, especially during the lockdown.
Briefing members of the Senate committee on FCT yesterday during the presentation of the revised 2020 budget of the ministry, the Minister said the fund was spent on provision of security services, provision of palliatives for indigent residents, as well as assisting neighbouring States who were distressed.
He said also that the FCT health facility supported residents from States where the level of government assistance was low, adding that the territory also provided healthcare services for both residents and non residents of the city.
These he said took a tremendous toll on the financial resources of the FCT, observing that a lot was done on provision of palliatives for the masses, especially as help was not forthcoming from anywhere when the COVID-19 crisis started. He said the expenses incurred by the territory resulted in low death toll in the city.
While requesting that the FCT Ministery’s budget be reviewed to reflect the realities on ground with respect to COVID-19 pandemic, Bello said the territory realised N136billion from various sources, representing 54% of the N232.8billion earlier projected by the administration.
He said the review which the FCT is seeking senate approval for in its budget was to take care of the key areas that must be sustained despite COVID-19, adding that almost all areas of the budget had been cut by 50%, except areas that has direct bearing on human lives, such as school feeding programme, salaries, grants, among others.
Speaking further, the minister said N61billion has been proposed for capital projects, especially because of the need to continue the execution of key ongoing projects. He said that 97.1% has been spent on recurrent budget, just as he said most 2020 capital projects have been rolled over to 2021 in the revised budget to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.
Meanwhile, the Minister requested that the revised 2020 budget be sustained by the lawmakers pending when its 2021 budget is considered and passed by the National Assembly.
In his remarks, the chairman of the Senate committee, Senator Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), commended the FCT over its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying the prediction from the Western countries were gloomy for Nigeria.
He said the level of death predicted by the west did not take place as predicted because of the policies and strategy provided by the FCT Minister, adding that senate is appreciative of his contributions and efforts to ensure that COVID-19 did not spread across the federal capital.
He said specifically, the FCT healthcare team worked very hard, given the backup provided by the minister, to tame the virus.
At this juncture, he assured the minister that the Senate committee will do its part by expeditiously by considering and approving the revised budget of the FCT and send to the Senate for approval. Senator Kyari also requested that the 2021 budget of the territory be prepared and submitted early enough for quick passage by the Senate.