Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Tuesday decried the effects of Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID 19, to the nation’s economy. The Chairman of NGF, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, highlighted the impacts while welcoming Amina J Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, who visited the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat as part of her tour of some West African States including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Dr Fayemi, who is also the Governor of Ekiti State, enumerated some of the challenges of governance in the country and how the pandemic affected the nation’s economy and whittled down its super structure at the subnational level.
According to a statement by Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Head, Media and Public Affairs Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Fayemi said that although the virus hit Nigeria in March 2020, later than other countries, its impact has been ravaging with over 64,090 confirmed cases and 1,154 deaths.
Other impacts, he said, include the fall in oil prices, contracting tax base, loss of sources of livelihood, unemployment, youth restiveness (ENDSARS Protest), increasing inflation rate, worsening exchange rate, decline in productivity due to necessary lockdown measures initiated globally and nationally.
Explaining how the various states handled the pandemic at the subnational level, Fayemi stated that as a responsive group, we worked collaboratively, co-opting ideas and welcoming support from critical stakeholders including partners and the private sector.
“At the wake of the pandemic, we worked with the Federal Government to ensure the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Presidential Task Force (PTF), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development got all the support it required in delivering swift containment measures”.
At the National Economic Council (NEC) level, we developed a COVID-19 response plan encompassing health, economic and socio-economic, immediate to medium term measures needed to combat the virus and its impact.
Explaining that this is a period to turn adversity into opportunity Dr Fayemi said “at the subnational level, we set up intervention funds, social investment programmes, distributed palliatives, launched tax incentive programmes to protect and support livelihoods as well as businesses.
“This is reflected in our 2020 amended State budgets of which 10 percent was earmarked for COVID-19 response expenditures and the recent partner interventions undertaken by States including the World Bank $750 million States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) additional financing, $750 million COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) programme for results and the $100 million Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE)” he stated.
The Ekiti State Governors also told Amina Mohammed that the pandemic had compelled Governors to see the “need for retooling ourselves, on how best to become accountable to the electorate.”
Two Governors, Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State and Senator Hope Uzodinma, his Imo State counterpart attended the meeting with the Dep Sec Gen in person while more than twenty others joined by zoom from their respective states.
Most of the other governors who contributed in the conversation with Amina Mohammed echoed the same things that the NGF Chairman had said earlier.
Responding to their pleas for assistance from the UN the Dep Sec Gen said that the UN does not write checks but creates and environment for those who have the checks to do so,
She commended the Governors for the mature manner with which they handled that ENDSARS demonstrations, even though she regretted that some ugly influences eventually contaminated the protests. She advised the nations leadership to see young people as an asset or else they would not eventually have a peaceful retirement.
By Chidi Ugwu,