Governors of the 36 states of the federation, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), have expressed worry over the increasing cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country and have agreed to ramp up testing as well as provide a 300 bed space per state for isolation and treatment.
The decision part of the communique issued at the end of their 8th teleconference to review the COVID-19 situation in states as well as develop strategies on how best to quickly overcome the effects of the pandemic.
Recalled that the Presidential Task Force, had urged governors make use of all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide donated by Catholic Bishops Conference for adaptation and use as isolation centres.
The communique signed by it’s Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi, the governors said: “The Forum is concerned with the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country which reached 4,787 as at 12th May 2020 based on an update from the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19. The worrying trend urgently calls for additional measures by State Governors to ramp up capacity for testing, increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per State, accelerate the procurement of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and training for health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement.”
On the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 introduced by the House of Representatives, Governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with State governments who are at the forefront of the epidemic.
Following an update they got from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Tambuwal, on the proposed Bill, “The Forum resolved that the Bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.
“In the light of this, the Forum established a Committee comprising the Governors of Katsina, Sokoto and Plateau to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020. The NGF Secretariat was also mandated to comprehensively review the Bill and its implication on States.”
Concerned about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account, the governors to engaged the federal government to ensure all arrangements involved the states.
The governors states in the communique: “Following an update on the rising trend of deductions from revenues accruable to the federation account available for distribution to the three tiers of government, the Governors noted the threat this poses on the fiscal capacity of States to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members also raised concern about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account. The Forum agreed to engage with the federal government to ensure that the governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments recognize State governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making.”
The governors also said they have followed with interest, the development of the 12-month Economic Sustainability Plan by the federal government, which is designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
They resolved “In the spirit of developing a truly coordinated national response to the crisis, Governors expressed the importance of greater consultation and collaboration between the federal and state governments on development planning. A Committee was consequently set up to interface with the federal government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan. The Committee is made up of the Governors of Bauchi, Plateau, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Ekiti.
“A second Committee comprising the Governors of Gombe, Nasarawa, Delta, Ebonyi, Oyo and Kaduna was established to steer the activities of the NGF-NESG Economic Roundtable (NNER) – a sub-national platform of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group created to promote sub-national competitiveness through public-private collaboration.
The Forum said following a briefing from the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, on the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19, set up by oil and gas operators to provide medical consumables to States, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.
Governors commended NNPC for leading the industry to take the initiative and advised the group to prioritize interventions that will boost the country’s testing capacity and the capacity of health workers who are at the frontline of the epidemic.
Following an update from the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki on the operation of the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) project which is supporting a strong pro-poor fiscal response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governors agreed to take additional measures to strengthen their public financial management systems, including a revision of their 2020 budgets and the amendment of State procurement guidelines to support e-procurement and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
To fast-track the deployment of e-procurement across States, the Forum said it will be adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the Kaduna State government providing the framework agreement that other States can leverage on.
The governors said in line with the commitment to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, they have resolved to make warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives and have appointed State Coordinators who will be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.
The Forum also congratulated the newly appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari. The Forum wishes him well and looks forward to a fruitful partnership that will support the development of the country.
By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye,
The Sun News