By Haruna Gimba
Nigeria’s government has approved the sum of N6.45 billion ($16.9m) for the setting up of gas plants in 38 locations across the country, in a bid to enhance the treatment of COVID-19 patients who desperately require oxygen.
The presidency said the release of funds to address the provision of oxygen was announced at a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) advisory body.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved 6.45 billion naira for the setting up of gas plants in 38 locations nationwide in a bid to enhance the treatment of Covid-19 patients who need oxygen,” said a statement issued by the vice president’s office.
The release of funds for the production of oxygen was “necessitated by the increased number of patients who need oxygen due to the surge in Covid-19 infections in the country,” the statement said.
It said a further N255 million ($670,000) had been approved for repairs of oxygen plants in five hospitals.
Earlier this week, the state government in Lagos, the epicentre of Nigeria’s outbreak, said demand for oxygen at one of its main hospitals had increased fivefold in recent weeks to 350 6-litre cylinders a day. It said that was expected to more than double to 750 by the end of January.
Nigeria has recorded 114,691 COVID-19 cases and 1,478 deaths, as of Thursday.
While wealthier countries have begun mass vaccination campaigns, African countries are scrambling to secure supplies.
Authorities previously said the first doses, under the COVAX programme backed by the World Health Organization to secure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries, were expected by the end of January.
State governors, federal capital territory minister, Central Bank Governor and other senior government officials attended the meeting.
Briefing NEC on the release of the funds, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of the funds for the production of oxygen due to the surge in COVID-19 infections in the country.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire informed the council that sequel to President Buhari’s decision to activate the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund based on the National Health Act, N55.1billion was approved in 2018 and that 50 percent of the sum has since been released to the states and the FCT.