The 36 state governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) unanimously resolved to engage with the Vice President and Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC), Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to facilitate states’ representation in the implementation committee of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP).
To this end, the governors advocated for the need to revitalise Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) to support the government’s ambitious housing programme and the importance of the N2trillion Nigeria Infrastructure Investment Fund to stimulate the economy.
The NGF’s resolution was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the 12th teleconference meeting chaired by its Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, where the governors underscored the need to put in place consolidated measures toward the gradual opening of the formal and informal sectors of the economy.
Governor Fayemi also briefed the Forum on the World Bank Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) programme which is a $100 million COVID-19 support from the Federal Government to fund health mitigation measures across the states.
According to him, the fund comes at a critical time as the impact of COVID-19 prolongs and when state governments prepare for the reopening of the economy, and it will support broader mitigation measures required to ensure seamless easing of the lockdown across states.
The Forum also received an update from the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, Chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee on COVID-19 on the implementation of the Final Report of the NEC Ad-hoc Committee on COVID-19 ‘Containing the outbreak and responding to the adverse economic effects’ which was presented to the Vice President and Chairman of the Committee, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in March 2020.
The governor noted that the recommendations of the report have been integrated into the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).
Governor el-Rufai also highlighted cross-cutting imperatives for a post-COVID economic recovery, including a unique identity system for Nigeria; broadband connectivity; investment in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical generics; research and development; as well as institutional reforms for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) along the lines of PENCOM.
In the same vein, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who doubles as Chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee presented the report on the interface with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 aimed at providing a coordinated strategy between the Federal and State Governments to ease the lockdown and open the economy as well as the review of the new strategy being rolled out by the PTF to address the spread of the pandemic.
According to the communiqué, all the “Local Government Areas with a high burden of diseases (hotspot) have been identified and targeted with interventions such as increased testing, and promotion of non-pharmaceutical intervention including hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, mandatory masking in public and partial or total lockdown restricting movement.
“The Presidential Task Force (PTF) will reach out and work with the governors of the respective states to implement the strategy.”
Also at the meeting, the governors underscored the need to collaborate with Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) with the view to ensure the implementation of the 5% user charge on the pump price of petrol and the international vehicle transit charge to better fund road projects in Nigeria.
The resolution was passed after delegation on the presentation of FERMA Managing Director/CEO on the agency’s road maintenance programme and other challenges.
The Forum also received report delivered by Oliver Stolpe, Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Nigeria and Dr Yemi Kale, Statistician-General, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the findings of the second Corruption Survey in Nigeria, which focused on Federal Government agencies.
According to the report, the incidence of bribery has decreased since 2016 when the survey was first conducted, from 32.3% to 30.2%, hence the governors resolved to collaborate with UNODC to strengthen public complaints mechanisms across State MDAs given that state institutions, businesses and households are affected by bribe seeking among public sector officials.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva also addressed the Forum on the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) which is designed as a catalyst to adding value to the vast natural gas reserves in Nigeria.
According to the Minister, the plan will also spur revitalisation across gas-based industries in fertilizer, methanol, textiles and feedstock for industries.
To this end, the governors resolved to collaborate with Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources with the view to support the implementation of the National Gas Expansion Programme through a state-wide adoption of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG); easing gas pipeline right of way applications; and encouraging the micro stove assembly for small businesses, including facilitating training for gas operators.
Other matters of concern including deductions from the federation account to fund the North East Development Commission (NEDC); stamp duty collection; ownership of the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG); as well as the contentious Executive Order 10.
Finally, given the rise in the community spread of COVID-19 cases with mild or no symptom, state governments are encouraged to ramp up testing to curb the spread of the virus especially amongst those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly.
By Kehinde Akintola,