Governor Yahaya Bello has approved a staggering N9 billion budget for COVID-19, despite his repeated refusal to acknowledge the existence of the dreadful virus. A review of Kogi’s N130.5 billion 2021 budget — recently passed into law by the state parliament — shows a line item ambiguously stated as “COVID-19” with N9.7 billion allotted for it. Mr. Bello’s spokesman, Kingsley Fanwo, did not return requests for clarification when contacted by Peoples Gazette Sunday afternoon, fuelling suspicion that the unclear budgetary provision may present an avenue for state funds to be misappropriated. Governor Bello has continually described the raging coronavirus pandemic as a ruse. Mr. Bello, an accounting graduate who has no background in science, had warned Nigerians not to present themselves for inoculation when the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the country. “They want to use the vaccine to introduce a disease that will kill you and us, God forbid,” Mr. Bello had said at a political rally last month. The governor did not provide any evidence to substantiate his claims. However, he queried why developers of COVID-19 vaccines were swift to produce antidotes to the novel viral infection yet unable to find solutions to older ailments such as HIV, malaria, and cancer. Mr. Bello has, nonetheless, approved humongous sums for COVID-19 spendings in Kogi’s 2021 fiscal plan. Some of the bogus provisions for COVID-19, separate from the ambiguous N9 billion allocation, were N100 million for COVID-19 pandemic response activities; N101 million for COVID-19 pandemic palliative expenses; and N200 million for medical expenses/refund (local and international) COVID-19 response — all listed under Kogi Government House. Listed under the state’s ministry of education, science and technology were N200 million for e-learning programme (COVID-19 palliative for students in JSS 3 and SSS 3); N123 million for disinfectant of schools, water supply, and advocacy on back-to-school (COVID-19 response); and N119 million for infrared thermometer for temperature reading (COVID-19 response). Under “Expenditure by Economic Classification,” N334 million was allotted for medical expenses/refund (local and international) COVID-19 response; N219 million for COVID-19 pandemic response activities; N97 million for monitoring and evaluation system COVID-19 response; and N91 million for committee/commission screening expenses COVID-19 response. Under the ministry of health, N100 million was earmarked for health care plus COVID-19 response; and N90 million for E-health COVID-19 response, amongst many others running into hundreds of millions. Federal health authorities had flagged Kogi as a high-risk state for COVID-19 following Governor Bello’s refusal to build isolation centres or allow tests to be conducted in the state — located 214.2 km from Nigeria’s capital Abuja.