*As three million beneficiaries receive support nationwide
The World Bank says it has so far disbursed over $300 million out of its $750 million commitment for the implementation of the Nigerian COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES).
NG-CARES is an intervention programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 on the poor and vulnerable.
The programme was launched with a $750 million World Bank loan, and each state is to receive $20 million while the FCT and the Federal CARES Support Unit (FCSU) will receive $15million each.
The implementation is at state level and the disbursement of funds is based on results achieved by each state.
The World Bank Task Team Leader for NG-CARES, Professor Foluso Okunmadewa in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Medium-Term Review (MTR) meeting of the programme in Abuja, said the balance of the funds would be disbursed within the next eight months because the initial challenges encountered at the beginning of the programme have been sorted out..
He said the review became necessary to take a look at how it has fared after two and half years. “We are also looking at the World Bank assistance to know if it has achieved the desired results, whether it is still relevant and whether we should discontinue with it,” he said.
Prof. Okunmadewa said the went through a very difficult time at the inception, but it is doing well now, “in fact it is almost exceeding the expectations to the extent that there is a desire to continue the programme at the government level, and may be the World Bank will also support the next phase of it.
“It is still very active in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT and all are eager to continue with it because caring for the poor and vulnerable in Nigeria is still a need that the government is concerned about.”
Also speaking, the National Coordinator for NG-CARES, Dr. Abdulkarim Obaje said the success of NG-CARES is because it is a community-driven programme.
According to him, “The programme is doing very well after the initial challenges we had at the beginning. It is also becoming very popular. As we speak, we have reached over three million beneficiaries across the country.”
He said that states that have put their resources towards the implementation of NG-CARES across the country, have received the dividends in terms of reimbursement to them. “The contribution from the states is about N90 billion and the states have received over N200 billion in terms of reimbursement,” Obaje said, adding, “What that means is that while the states are investing N90 billion, they are getting N200 billion as reimbursement. That is spectacular and it is something that should be sustained because states are getting more than they are investing.”
On the review meeting, Obaje said the mid term review gives opportunity to look at the design again and see what can be improved. He noted that a major issue is understanding the funding instrument called Programme for Result, which request states to put their own resources and then be reimbursed later.
He said that the general direction of NG-CARES is to evolve into one of the several shock response mechanisms of government both at the Federal and state levels to respond to disasters of any kind including economic crisis.
The Delta State Commissioner for Economic Planning, Mr. Sonny Akporokiamo Ekedayen, who also attended the review meeting, praised the NG-CARES initiative which he said has succeeded in moving some people out of abject poverty to some level of stability.
He said Delta State has been very active in the implementation of the programme and was one of the first states that signed into it when it first came and has domesticated it.
“Because of our commitment, we have not only received commendation from the World Bank, but also from the National Coordinating office,” he said.
He also informed that the state government has just approved an additional N539 billion for the programmes. “That is a testament to the faith the government has in the ability of the NG-CARES to pull our people out of poverty,” the Commissioner said.
The Zamfara State Care Coordinator, Mr. Mukhtar Ibrahim, said the state has reached over 80,000 beneficiaries. Noting that the state government has so far committed N9 billion to the programme, Ibrahim said NG-CARES is one of the best intervention programmes of the government. He thanked the government of Zamfara state for its commitment to the programme.