BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), rose from its meeting on Wednesday with a resolve to provide leadership to the COVID-19 response in their respective States by ramping up risk communication activities and community testing for the pandemic.
This is just as the NGF expressed concerned over the delay in the release of the results of the SMART survey conducted for the Saving One Million Lives Performance for Results (SOML-PforR) Project.
The Forum received briefing from Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who is Chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and highlighted the importance of continued and increased testing in all States as the economy opens.
The NGF Committee called on States to take ownership of the COVID-19 response, especially with the expected winding of the PTF by the end of September 2020.
It noted that the low testing rates at any time will make it difficult to track the correct status of the pandemic in the country thus making it difficult to make important decisions like opening of schools, NYSC camps, holding elections etc.
Similarly, the NGF Legal Committee led by its Vice Chairman, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, updated members on consultations with the Attorney General of the Federation to resolve concerns on the implementation of the Executive Order #10.
Accordingly, the NGF set up a Technical Committee comprising members from all parties to finalize an acceptable framework for the implementation of the Presidential Order #10 which deals with autonomy for the Judiciary and State Houses of Assembly.
These were contained in a communique issued at the of the meeting and signed by the Chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
The NGF communique further states; “In the light of Rotary’s recognition of the Forum’s role in ending the polio pandemic in the country, governors are called to maintain vigilance to ensure that the structures put in place for routine immunization are not jeopardized by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Forum commended the World Bank for the new initiative to support States in updating their property records. Some States are already in advanced stages of developing a geographic information system (GIS) that will help them gather, manage and analyze geospatial data both for the purpose of spacial planning and property taxation.
“All State governments through their Internal Revenue Services will ensure the seamless implementation of tax relief programmes for businesses and taxpayers.
“These programmes which were released in some States since March 2020 are designed to reduce the financial burden of taxpayers in the country up till 2021 in some cases.
“The Forum through its Sub-Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 will address concerns raised by States on the reception of new inmates amidst measures taken to curtail the spread of COVID-19 across correctional facilities in the country.
“Finally, State governments were called to nominate focal persons that will interface with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on the actualization of the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP). The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva had addressed the Forum in July 2020 on the NGEP which is designed as a catalyst for Nigeria’s vast natural gas reserves.
“The plan will spur revitalization across gas-based industries in fertilizer, methanol, textiles and feedstock for industries among others,” the NGF resolved.
The meeting also noted that disbursement of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) facility to eligible States has been approved by the Ministry of Health to safeguard government interventions in primary health care service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Forum said it received a Rotary International Polio Certification Award for its role in eradicating polio in Nigeria, adding that the NGF had polio a permanent item on its agenda for at least 18 months and was instrumental in maintaining high political commitment and coordination for routine immunization in all parts of the country.
The NGF also said that the Task Team Leader for the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme, Yue Man Lee provided an update of the SFTAS programme and near-term action for State governments. It said that the presentation also introduced a new technical assistance programme by the World Bank to support States in updating the property records of at least 50% of properties that have electricity connections in Urban Areas by June 30, 2021.