Governors of the 36 states of the federation have distanced themselves from the hate speech bill now under consideration at the National Assembly, saying that none of them has supported it.

Despite public outcry, the “Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and for related matters” passed through second reasons in the Senate on Wednesday.

Rising from a meeting of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in Abuja on Wednesday night, the deputy chairman of the forum and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal advised the lawmakers to allow the input of Nigerians through a public hearing.

He said the National Assembly must respect the views of the people on the issues.

Fielding questions from reporters after the meeting, he said: “I am not sure I have heard any governor come out to say he is in support of the death penalty for hate speech.

“I believe the National Assembly should hold a public hearing on that bill so that due process of lawmaking is followed so that the views of Nigerians not just the governors will be well captured on that bill.

“They should respect the views of Nigerians in whatever may be the direction of debate and the eventual passage or otherwise of that bill.”

Asked of the governors’ position on the move to increase Value Added Tax (VAT) from five to 7.5. per cent, on which President Muhammadu Buhari has already forwarded a bill to the National Assembly, Tambuwal appealed to Nigerians to show more understanding with the federal government, while he expressed the governors’ support for the move.

Tambuwal stated: “We are appealing to those who probably have no proper understanding of the contexts of those bills to kindly have a rethink of them and reflect on the quantum of work ahead of us.

” As a country and states, we need a lot of resources to turn around infrastructure, to invest in education, healthcare and every sector of our national life.

“There is an urgent need for more revenue in Nigeria. So, I appeal that we should show more understanding with the Federal Government in that regard.”

The NGF deputy boss also spoke on the December ultimatum to state governors by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to implement the minimum wage, saying that the various states are engaging labour unions on the issue.

He added: “I am sure it is work in progress. Before December all the states must have finished working out the details on the issue of minimum wage across the federation.

“We are very much committed to the welfare and wellbeing of our workforce and therefore we shall continue to ensure we do our best on what needs to be done.”

On the business of the day, Tambuwal said the forum received an update on the outcome of its meeting in the US with Aliko Dangote Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Human Capital Development with focus on Primary Health Care (PHC).

He said that the governors and the two Foundations reaffirmed commitment to the Seattle Declaration aimed at promoting collaboration to transform PHC at the subnational level in Nigeria

This, according to him, includes the full implementation of PHC Under One Roof and meeting the requirements of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.

Tambuwal added: “To improve efficiency gains across governments and economic activities at the household level, the NGF committed to initiatives to advance value-added activities in agriculture, access to finance and women economic empowerment.”

He also said that the NGF received an update on the World Bank State Fiscal Transparency

Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme and discussed modalities to ensure its smooth and accelerated implementation.

Reading the communique issued at the end of the meeting, Tambuwal added: “Following a presentation from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on the SFTAS Annual Performance Appraisal (APA) mission to States, members committed to working with the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) to ensure that the APA process does not experience delays.

“The forum also held a preliminary consultative session with the World Bank Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri and his team on the new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Nigeria for the period of 2020 to 2024.

“This also includes a planned Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment Program.

“Governors promised to hold a dedicated session to reach a consensus on what matters most for States and a common agenda to improve the wellbeing of all Nigerians.”

Tambuwal revealed that on the commemoration of the anniversary of the Rights of Children, Peter Hawkins, the Country Representative of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) made a presentation to the forum where education of Nigeria’s children was unequivocally emphasized.

On plans by the states to fully domesticate the Child Right Act, Tambuwal said many states had already done so, adding: “I believe some of the states that have challenges that have to do with religion, culture or others are dealing with them at a local level and addressing them.

“The peculiarity depends on the situation of an individual state.”

Wednesday night’s meeting was attended by governors of Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Adamawa, and Kwara.

Other states such as Gombe, Enugu, Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Ebonyi were represented by their deputy governors.

By Leon Usigbe,
Nigerian Tribune

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