The State Governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have applauded President Muhammadu Buhari over his decision to postpone the formal publication of Executive Order #10 of 2020 in the Official Gazette to enable further consultations among all stakeholders.
The resolution was contained in the communiqué issued at the end of the 10th teleconference meeting chaired by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, during which the governors commended the World Bank on the provision of $750 million additional financing for the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Program for Results (SFTAS).
The NGF Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State conveyed the Forum’s appreciation via a communiqué issued at the end of the 10th teleconference meeting, during which the Governors deliberated on a number of issues affecting the country especially the impact of COVID-19 in the country.
According to the communiqué, Governor Fayemi, along with Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami on the implications of the contentious Executive Order #10, which among others mandates the allocation of appropriated funds to the State Legislature and State Judiciary in the State appropriation laws in the annual budget of the State as a First Line Charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State.
The Forum also resolved to continue meeting with the delegation of the Conference of Speakers and other stakeholders to work out modalities for resolving all concerns regarding Executive Order #10 amicably, through the NGF Committee led by the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
After receiving briefing on the outcome of the public hearing on the proposed Control of Infectious Disease Bill, 2020 at the House of Representatives held at the instance of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, the Governors urged that the proposed bill should “takes into account the crucial role of State Governments within Nigeria’s federal system in responding to pandemics in the country.
“Specifically, State Governors should be conferred with the powers, among others to, declare any place within their State an infected area; make regulations and directives towards prevention and further spread of an infectious disease within the State; establish States’ Centers for Disease Control; the discretionary powers of Mr President and the Director-General as contained in the proposed Bill should be reviewed.
“Finally, while cautioning on certain human rights violations in the proposed Bill, Governors also highlighted potential contraventions with the Nigerian Constitution.”
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 to provide a coordinated strategy for the Federal and State governments to relax the COVID-19 lockdown.
To this end, the Forum “endorsed the work of Governor Okowa’s Committee to consolidate measures to gradually open the formal and informal sectors of the economy, especially agricultural activities in rural areas, manufacturing (including the distribution of goods across States), markets, construction, hotels and restaurants (takeaways only), and worship centres based on existing COVID-19 protocols.
The Governors also agreed with the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) to prioritise government’s response in hotspots across the country that account for the largest share of COVID-19 cases.
The Governors encouraged citizens who have COVID-19 symptoms to go for testing to ensure that they receive timely care and that their families are protected from being infected, stressing that States are already working with the PTF to ensure that there are operational testing laboratories in each State.
The Forum also called on each State government to develop a strategy for opening its economy based on the guidelines agreed to by the PTF and the NGF.
So far, success has been recorded in improving the supply and availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), with five companies certified by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to locally produce PPE.
Also at the meeting, the Forum passed a vote of confidence on the newly appointed Chairman of the Police Trust Fund, Suleiman Abba which is a special intervention fund established by the Police Trust Fund Act to provide funds for, inter alia, the training and welfare of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.
While expressing their support for the new PTF Chairman to steer a responsive and responsible Police Force, the Governors urged him to ensure that the composition of the PTF Board of Trustees, representative of the country’s diversity.
They also advised the PTF Chairman to seek legal advice on the funding sources of the organization as the current arrangement in its Act which amongst others, sources its funding from 0.5% of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account violates the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.
After receiving a briefing from the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen who addressed members on the rising case of rape and gender-based violence in the country which has escalated threefold since the enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Governors resolved to “declare a State of Emergency on Sexual and Gender-based violence.
The Governors strongly condemned all forms of violence against women and children and committed to ensuring that offenders face the maximum weight of the law.
To this end, the Forum called on State Governors that have not already domesticated relevant gender-based protection laws to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, the Child Rights Act and the updated Penal Code to increase protection for women and children and ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of perpetrators in addition to creating a sex offenders register in each State to name and shame.
The Forum also invited the Commissioners of Police to provide a detailed report on the actions taken to strengthen their response to sexual and gender-based violence through the Family Support Units and Force Gender Units at the State and Local Government levels. Governors will commit additional funding for the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence through appropriate Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
The Governors also endorsed the communiqué of the meeting of the First Ladies in Nigeria which held on 7th June 2020 to evaluate and mobilize action to check the alarming rate of sexual violence against women and girls and indeed all forms of violence against women.
Also during the meeting, the Governors endorsed the recommendations of the NEC Ad-hoc committee on COVID-19 which highlights key public health and macroeconomic actions for the Federal and State governments – many of which States are already implementing.
By Kehinde Akintola,