The 36 state governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have expressed optimism that the disbursement of other available funds that will help close the financing gap created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is also including the $100 million COVID-19 support from the World Bank and the N1 billion to each state from the Federal Government to fund health mitigation measures and infrastructure refunds for the Federal Government roads constructed or rehabilitated by state governments.
The governors stated this at the 13th teleconference meeting chaired by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, according to the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, expressed that support for the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.
At the meeting, the NGF Chairman briefed his contemporaries on the forum’s collaboration with the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative and partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on sexual violence and protection for women and children.
He assured that the new partnership was aimed at strengthening actions kickstarted by state governments following the declaration of a state of emergency on Sexual and Gender-based Violence by the forum at its meeting of 10th of June 2020, and the willingness of members to engage in the development of a national post-COVID-19 blueprint.
The communique read: “A new partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) aimed at strengthening the implementation of the programme and economic opportunities for smallholder farmers in all states.
“Consultation with the Senate Health Committee, the Ministry of Health, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and National Health Insurance Agency to facilitate the continuous implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All parties have agreed to lift the requirement for counterpart funding to enable qualified states to access undisbursed funds in the facility.
“Ongoing consultative meetings with the Federal Government to resolve the contentious provisions of the Executive Order #10. State governments have expressed that they are integrally not opposed to the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.
“The Forum also received updates and presentations from the Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, Chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 spoke on the collaboration between States and the federal government to reopen schools, especially for graduating students of secondary schools; and government strategies to increase the volume of sample collection which is currently around 30% utilization.
The Task Team Leader for the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability – Program-for-Results (PforR), Yue Man Lee provided key updates on the program and actions for State governments to meet upcoming deadlines for the 2019 Annual Performance Assessment (APA) and the SFTAS Additional Financing Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs). The update also highlighted adjustments made to the Original 2020-2021 DLIs in response to COVID-19.
Dr Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the Presidential Tax Force (PTF) on COVID-19 who gave a briefing on the need to for governors to strengthen the risk communication pillar of the COVID-19 pandemic response.
He urged all the States Governors to raise the profile of the pillar by appointing the Honourable Commissioner of Information as Chairman and a senior traditional leader in the state as Co-Chair with the State Health promotion officer as Secretary.
“Membership should be broad-based including relevant MDAs such as NOA, development partners and private sector. A similar structure should also be created in each of the LGAs.”
Dr Aliyu also recommended that state governors should hold a high-level meeting of traditional and religious leaders with the expanded risk communication team to strategise on achieving the level of community engagement essential for influencing positive behaviour and the uptake of health and safety measures by the public during the period of the pandemic.
“The update also highlighted additional health funding available to state governments from the Federal Government estimated at around N2.1 billion per State and Hot Spot Strategy which prioritise COVID-19 interventions in local government areas with elevated incidences.
“The NGF Secretariat’s Agric Advisor, Olatunde Akande also made a presentation on the NGF/CBN partnership on the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
“The new partnership is in line with the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan and will leverage on the ABP to expand economic opportunities for smallholder farmers across the country by increasing their capacity to access land, low-interest financing, extension services, Good Agricultural Practices and guaranteed markets for their produce. It will cover all CBN-focused crops, including rice, maize, cotton, cassava, oil palm, fish, cowpea, poultry and livestock among others.
“Thereafter, members of the Forum resolved as follows to strengthen the risk communication pillar of the State COVID-19 Task Teams as proposed by the PTF National Coordinator and foster stronger collaboration with the National Orientation Agency, State Orientation Agencies, religious and traditional institutions, as well as civil societies.
They will also step-up the current efforts by taking key health and safety measures to the doorsteps of Nigerians in all 774 local governments areas in the country.
“The State Governments, through their Ministries of Finance will utilise technical assistance available within the NGF Secretariat to publish their approved amended 2020 COVID-19-responsive budgets by 31st July 2020; maintain the implementation of a tax compliance relief programme for individual taxpayers and business to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis; issue emergency procurement guidelines, and adopt procedures to facilitate the participation of small and medium scale enterprises in state procurement by 30th September 2020.
“In the light of the proposed partnership with the CBN on the ABP, an official MoU signing will be held on Tuesday, 28th June 2020. The initiative will be followed by the establishment of a joint project team, engagement with stakeholders and launch during the 2020 dry season farming,” the communiqué read.
By Kehinde Akintola,