The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, and Governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi has said the two weeks extension of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states would be “tough” but was “the right way to go”. Governor Fayemi said this during his 1st teleconference meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Head, Media and Public Affairs of the NGF, said the teleconference meeting which was at the instance of the forum was warmly embraced by President Buhari, in a statement issued on Tuesday night.
He told the president that his address captured the mood of the nation and showed that his administration is in touch with the plight of the man on the street.
He also told the president that though the targeted testing strategy adopted by the country has done a lot, there was need for more testing.
He added that the governors were desirous of having some more testing facilities so as to deepen the gains already made by the NCDC.
Governor Fayemi, who briefed Mr President on the distribution of palliatives, urged him to instruct the relevant authorities to use the machineries of the state governments so that the palliatives would penetrate all nooks and crannies of the country.
“Palliatives,” the NGF Chairman explained, “would be even more meaningful if they were distributed through the State Governors.” Dr Fayemi told President Buhari that since the outbreak of the pandemic, governors have been meeting on a regular basis and met four (4) times over an initial span of twelve (12) days.
Fayemi said that governors would be having their next and 5th Teleconference meeting today (15th April, 2020) to review the strategies so far put in place in their various States and apply peer learning mechanism to share experiences and collectively adopt areas of successes for the good of their citizens.
The SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, the PTF Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Aliko Dangote and Herbert Wigwe will all be addressing the governors at the meeting.
The meeting between the NGF Chairman and the President stretched into the economy where the NGF Chairman told the President that States are going through rough times and would like to appeal to the president to take certain decisive decisions to ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian people.
Fayemi thanked the president for the approval of the release of $150million to augment projected FAAC shortfall in June but added that more needs to be done to keep the states properly afloat.
“More needs to be done,” he told the president. The NGF Chairman alluded to the revenues from the Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, which he said could help in assuaging some issues related to revenue shortfalls and reiterated a point from the 4th NGF teleconference meeting of the Governors where they called for the suspension of all deductions by the federal government so that states can address the COVID-19 challenge from a position of economic strength.
Dr Fayemi also hinted the president that there was the need to streamline all multi-lateral and bilateral interventions and funding so that states are also integrated and considered because of the difficulties that they are going through.
He lauded the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 which he said is doing a great job because the challenges that the Coronavirus has thrown at them was huge but added on a lighter mood that “Hunger-vid is equally as lethal”, noting that because it puts governors at the receiving end of the hardships, as all governors would be happier if their requests were met.
Governor Fayemi also hailed Mr President for the manner in which he has always rescued the States, recalling presidential approvals for bailouts, budget support facility, London Paris Club refund, etc. Governor Fayemi assured Mr. President that if established FGN debts to States like the outstanding PAYE are defrayed, the poor and vulnerable in the country and the citizens would be better taken care of.
“I know your penchant for caring for the poor and the downtrodden in the country, Mr President, and I am telling you that allocations from FAAC have dropped significantly so if you turn your magnanimity towards governors and their States into looking at other debts that continue to linger in the system and prioritise their payments, poor people will be the happier,” the Ekiti State Governor added.
The NGF Chairman told the president that all the 36 States’ governments were currently reviewing their budgets downwards to conform with the prevailing realities. Governor Fayemi stated that the Forum members align themselves with the efforts of the Federal Government and called for synergy in governance.
He urged the President to also encourage the evolution of a national strategic plan that would encompass the sub-national level so that the country will find a fast and easy way out of the woods.
Fayemi ended his conversation with the President on the plight of informal sector workers who are daily paid in the country whom he said have not been captured in the national register and were therefore exempted from the conditional cash transfer.
He said that their plight needs to be quickly addressed before our situation crumbles into the “Ecuadorian Alternative“ where the poor and vulnerable people of Ecuador flocked into the streets in violation of the stay at home order in their country.
President Buhari, while responding, commended Fayemi for providing decent leadership at the Forum and keeping all Governors on course which he said has helped the federal government to find easy access to the sub-national level. The President then asked the NGF Chairman to formalise all the requests of the Governors and forward them to him, promising that they would be promptly addressed.
By Muideen Olaniyi,