Governors okay debt reduction, judicial, legislature autonomy

State governors in Nigeria have agreed to grant autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary. This is in line with Executive Order 10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. They, however, gave two conditions to smoothen the implementation of the decisions.

These are: Immediate termination of the ongoing strike by judicial workers and the disbandment of the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary.

The governors said ending the strike would enable states to fine tune the legal framework to back the decisions.

They accused the Autonomy Committee of “acting as a permanent committee basically misguiding and overheating the relationship between State Governments and the other arms of government”.

These positions were taken at yesterday’s meeting of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), presided over by its Chairman and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi.

Other decisions taken at the meeting include the need to achieve debt limit and sustainability as well as support for the full deregulation of the downstream oil sector/withdrawal of subsidy.

The ‘Asaba Declaration’ issued after the Southern governors meeting was not discussed at the parley “because it was not on the agenda,” it was learnt last night.

The Asaba summit endorsed restructuring, national dialogue, total ban on open grazing and review of revenue allocation.

A governor said: “Most of the demands in the so-called Asaba Declaration had been endorsed by the NGF since March. There was no need to revisit them.”

The communique of the meeting, which was signed by Dr. Fayemi, focused on several matters of national concern and how to reduce tension.

The communique reads in part: ”On the Executive Order 10, talks have reached an advanced stage with the Ministry of Labour, Conference of Speakers, National Judicial Council and the NGF.

“ All parties are working earnestly to resolve the issues surrounding the implementation of the order.

“There are however legal aspects of the order that need to be tied up, but which cannot take place if officials responsible for these final processes are on strike.

“Governors are happy to implement the demands of the Judiciary and the Legislature.”

After considering the report of a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai, they agreed that petrol subsidy was unsustainable.

Nasir El-Rufai, accuses his fellow governors of abandoning his administration in its face-off with the Nigeria Labour Congress.

El-Rufai said this during a virtual meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum on Wednesday.

According to the communiqué, the Kaduna State governor further revealed that between N70 billion and N210 Billion is spent monthly to subsidise the petrol price at N162 per litre.

The committee identified Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Rivers and Abuja as the top consumers of petrol.

Presenting the report to his colleagues, el-Rufai reportedly said the increase in the price of petrol to N385 per litre would help stem the increasing smuggling of the product to neighbouring countries.

According to him, if petrol sells at N385 per litre, FAAC would gain between N1.3 trillion and N2. 2.3 trillion per annum.

The committee also recommended that the federal government should sell the three refineries after rehabilitation.

The report revealed that Nigeria lost billions of dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that there is already a cash crunch in the states.

NNPC had said that it would remit zero allocation to FAAC due to the huge cost of subsidising petrol.

Some of the governors at the meeting opposed the recommendations, insisting that they will create more hardship for Nigerians.

Contributing to the report, a South-west governor said that it would be very difficult to convince Nigerians and labour to accept the report.

But other governors insisted that the earlier there is full deregulation, the better for the country as it remains an evil day postponed.

The committee recommended that the federal government should buy and distribute over 113 buses to states and major cities as a palliative to the proposed increase in the price of petrol.

Before the committee submitted its report, El-Rufai had berated the forum.

He also accused an unnamed governor of providing mobilisation funds for the NLC to destabilise Kaduna State.

Although the governors pledged to mediate in the face-off between Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Labour, they also resolved to stand by the governor.

The Forum said:” On the Labour crisis in Kaduna State, the NGF noted that it stands with the Governor of Kaduna State in his quest to improve the productivity of workers and their rights for a better quality of life.

“NGF recognises that what is happening in Kaduna State, will reverberate in each of the States and encourages the Governor of Kaduna and all other governors to remain steadfast in the pursuit of human rights protection while ensuring that actions taken do not undermine the safety and security of lives.

“NGF appeals to both parties in Kaduna State to resolve the issues in the interest of the State as the protection of human rights for the collective good of all citizens and growth of our dear country, Nigeria, is what matters most.”

Concerning debt limit sustainability, the governors, after being briefed by the World Bank representative, agreed to give December 31, deadline to 13 states yet to pass the legislation to do so.

The NGF said:”The Forum also received presentations from the World Bank led by the Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, in the company of Prof. Foluso Okunmadewa, Sector Leader of the Human Development Team, and Yue Man Lee, Task Team Leader for the States Fiscal

Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability (SFTAS) – Program-for-Results (PforR) on the Nigeria Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus – Program for Results (Nigeria CARES) and SFTAS.

“The World Bank team commended the commitment and actions of State Governors for establishing and resourcing CARES programme State Coordinating Units under their Ministries of Planning, and requested for their additional support in areas such as the adoption of a Fund Release Policy for improved predictability of resources flows to CARES Delivery MDAs; adoption

and institutionalization of protocols for reporting, management and investigation of fraud and corruption in MDAs implementing CARES; and the release of 2021 State budgets to MDAs for the commencement of CARES-related activities.

“The Bank also urged the support of Governors to ensure that their Ministries of Finance and Ministries of Justice fast track the execution of subsidiary agreements for the CARES programme.

“Under the SFTAS Programme for Results, 23 States have already passed strong state-level debt legislation which stipulates: 1) responsibilities for contracting state debt; 2) responsibilities for recording/reporting state debt; and state fiscal and debt rules/limits. “To help Nigeria successfully meet the World Bank Sustainable Debt Financing Policy (SDFP) by strengthening debt management, debt transparency and fiscal responsibility at the state-level, a strong collective commitment was made for the remaining 13 States to pass such state-level debt legislation by 31 December 2021.”

The governors resolved to sustain the COVID -19 protocols and vaccination programme.

“The governor of Delta State, H.E Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who is the Chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee interfacing with the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 provided an update to the Forum on the activities of the PSC, and informed members of the expected commencement of the administration of the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country, starting with those who received the first batch of the vaccine.

“The Governor noted that the PSC is currently working to get additional vaccine doses for the country.

“The NGF agreed on the need to continue to maintain COVID public health guidelines and vaccination protocols to ensure that the transmission of the virus is kept at the lowest level possible.”

 

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By Matthew Ogune,
The Guardian

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