Govs Consolidate Efforts to Gradually Open Economy

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Kayode Fayemi

By Chuks Okocha

At the end of their 13th virtual conference, the state governors last Wednesday endorsed the work of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa-led committee to consolidate measures to gradually open the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

This was one of the high points of their meeting as contained in the communique signed by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

According to the communique, they “endorse the work of the Kaduna State 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, as well as the importance of the N2 trillion Nigeria Infrastructure Investment Fund to stimulate the economy.” The governors also agreed to collaborate with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and FERMA to ensure the implementation of the 5 percent user charge on the pump price of petrol and the international vehicle transit charge to better fund road projects in Nigeria.

According to the governors, “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.”

The governors agreed to 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.

They stated that 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 among those with preexisting conditions and the elderly.

The communique of the meeting resolved that the World Bank Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) programme which is a US$100 million COVID-19 support from the federal government to fund health mitigation measures across states, “came at a critical time as the impact of COVID-19 prolongs, and when state governments prepare for the reopening of the economy,” adding that it will support broader mitigation measures required to ensure seamless easing of the lockdown across states.

According to the communique, “The new strategy rolled out by the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) will address the spread of the pandemic. And local government areas with high burden of diseases (hotspot) have been identified and targeted with interventions such as increased testing, and promotion of non-pharmaceutical intervention, including hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, mandatory masking in public and partial or total lockdown. The PTF will reach out and work with the governors of the respective states to implement the strategy.”

Other matters of concern discussed at the meeting were the deductions from the federation account to fund the North East Development Commission (NEDC); stamp duty collection; ownership of the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), as well as the contentious Executive Order 10.

The communique said the Forum also received updates and presentations from Okowa, the chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee interfacing with the PTF on COVID-19 to provide a coordinated strategy between the federal and state governments to ease the lockdown and open the economy.

Also, El-Rufai, chairman of the NGF Sub-Committee on COVID-19, who 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’, presented it to Osinbajo in March 2020.

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 add 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 said.