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COVID-19: FG approves N6.45bn for new oxygen plants

…N255m for repairs in 5 hospitals

NEC endorses local vaccine production

In a bid to enhance the treatment of COVID-19, President Muhammmadu Buhari has approved release of N6.45 billion for the production of oxygen plants in 38 locations across the country. Also, N255 million was approved for repairs of oxygen plants in five hospitals.

Minister of Finance,Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting chaired by Vice- President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, yesterday. According to the minister, the approval was necessitated by the increased number of patients who needed oxygen due to the surge in COVID-19 infections in the country. Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, informed the Council that half of the sum of N55.1 billion approved for activation of Basic Healthcare Provision Fund in 2018, based on the National Health Act, has been released to states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Ehanire added that the sum of N35 billion has already been earmarked for the Fund in 2021.

The Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF or “The Fund”) was established under Section 11 of the National Health Act (NHA Act), as the principal funding vehicle for the Basic Minimum Package of Health Services (BMPHS).

The Fund serves to increase the fiscal space and overall financing to the health sector to help achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). While giving updates on the nation’s accounts before the Council, the finance minister disclosed that the Excess Crude Account (ECA) balance as at January 20 stood at $72,411,197.80; Stabilization Account balance as at January 19 was N28,800,711,295.37 while Natural Resources Development Fund Account balance as at 19th January 2021 was N95,830,729,470.82.

The vice president, who chairs the Council’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Public Engagements regarding the fallouts of the #EndSARS protests of last year, stated that the NEC engagement this year would focus on wealth creation, social safety nets and employment; education, digital economy and sports development; creative industry and hospitality; security and governance. Meanwhile, NEC has endorsed efforts being made to produce COVID-19 vaccines locally, according to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.

Briefing State House correspondents, after the first virtual meeting of the council for 2021, Okowa added that the country was also open to partnership and outsourcing arrangements with foreign producers of the vaccines.

“Nigeria and May and Baker are already in partnership for quite some time now in trying to ensure that we are able to produce vaccines locally. “And they are already looking very closely at that; and how to partner with either the approved vaccine producers, or to relate with those vaccines that are still in the process to see what we can do to start to produce vaccines. “A lot of work is also being done locally; the details of which is not yet available, but we do know that Prof.

Oyewale Tomori is working very closely with some of the institutions we have in the country to see the possibility of us beginning to produce vaccines at the moment,” Okowa said. He said production of vaccines required a lot of process and funding, but expressed optimism that the partnership between May and Baker and the Nigerian government, as led by Tomori, would be fruitful. According to him, the Tomori-led partnership was working on being involved in the production of vaccines; either locally or in partnership with those that have been approved globally, like the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine, whose bulk would be produced in India. “So, there could be outsourcing of the production of some of these vaccines.

And we hope that we can become part of those that will have the outsourcing to produce some of these vaccines, because there are so many of them that are still in the process of seeking approval,” he said.

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