COVID-19: Governors meet, discuss plans to reopen economy

Governors of the 36 states of the federation on the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) met on Wednesday to discuss issues affecting the country, including the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Nigerians and the economy.

This is even as they have resolved to collaborate with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 on the pandemic, to address the spread of the pandemic in high burden Local Government Areas (LGAs).

At the meeting which held virtually and was presided by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, the governors resolved to approve the work of the NGF Sub-Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to consolidate measures to gradually open the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the chairman of the committee, had briefed the Forum on steps taken to provide a coordinated strategy between the Federal and state governments to ease the lockdown and open the economy.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai also provided an update 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.

El-Rufai, who is the Chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee on COVID-19, informed his colleagues that the recommendations of the report have been integrated into the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).

He also outlined the cross-cutting imperatives for a post-COVID economic recovery, including a unique identity system for Nigeria, broadband connectivity, and investment in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical generics.

Others are research and development, as well as institutional reforms for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) along the lines of PENCOM.

Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Nuruddeen Rafindadi, made a presentation on FERMA’s Road Maintenance Programme and Challenges.

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) presented findings of the second Corruption Survey in Nigeria, which showed that the incidence of bribery has decreased since 2016 when the survey was first conducted, from 32.3% to 30.2%.

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. The plan will also spur revitalisation across gas-based industries in fertilizer, methanol, textiles and feedstock for industries.

The communique issued at the end of the meeting said the Nigeria Governors’ Forum resolved to: ‘Endorse the work of Governor Okowa’s Committee to consolidate measures to gradually open the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

‘Endorse the work of the El-Rufai Committee and resolved to engage with the Vice President and Chairman of the National Economic Council, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to facilitate States’ representation in the implementation committee of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan. Members also advocated for the need to revitalise Nigeria’s Mortgage Bank to support the government’s ambitious housing programme and the importance of the N2 trillion Nigeria Infrastructure Investment Fund to stimulate the economy.

‘Collaborate with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and FERMA 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.

‘Although the second corruption survey focused on federal government agencies, members 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.

‘Collaborate with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources 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.

‘Finally, given the rise in the community spread of coronavirus 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 preexisting conditions and the elderly.’


By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye,
The Sun

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