NEC Demands Establishment of Testing Centres in Each State

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Ifeanyi Okowa

By Omololu Ogunmade

The virtual National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja yesterday demanded the creation of COVID-19 testing centres in each of the 36 states of the federation.

NEC, which comprises the 36 state governors and notable government officials such as economic managers, also hailed the report of the Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) chaired by Osinbajo, promising to collaborate with the federal government on its implementation.

At a virtual briefing at the end of the meeting, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, presented highlights of the interim report of the NEC’s Adhoc Committee set up by the council to interface with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

Okowa’s committee, according to the summary of the briefing made available to reporters by Osinbajo’s media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, last night, recommended “that there should be rapid testing, tracing, isolation and treatment, and the NCDC and PTF should provide each state with laboratory testing facilities and ensure effective sample collection.”

He also said the committee recommended the need for the Minister of Health, Dr. Osage Ehanire, to “ensure the continuous provision of all essential health services in order to ensure that people do not die from other diseases needlessly.”

The governor also said the committee demanded the provisions of operating guidelines to states to enable them domesticate such guidelines in accordance with norms and traditions of each state particularly on the opening of public places.

“The Presidential Task Force (PTF) should provide the operating guidelines to the States to enable them domesticate same given their peculiarities, norms and traditions, especially in opening of markets, religious places and schools etc.,” he said.

According to the governor, the committee also recommended that the health hazard workers’ allowance proposed by the Federal Ministry of Health should not be imposed on states but should rather be presented to them with guidance that will assist each state in negotiating with its health workers according to its ability.

On the ESC stimulus package, governors at the meeting were said to have commended the Osinbajo-led committee for a job well done with a pledge to fully cooperate with the federal government on the implementation of N2.3 trillion stimulus package proposed by ESC and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The governors welcomed the plan and made a commitment to work with the federal government with a proposal that two of the governors could join the committee for the implementation phase of the plan.

“Besides, state governments will also be actively involved in the process of executing projects in the plan, especially such projects based in the domains of respective States, in collaboration with other stakeholders and partners,” Akande said.

In his own briefing, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai, who chaired the NGF’s Adhoc Committee on collaborative implementation of the National Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), commended ESC, reiterating that state governors were committed to the successful implementation of the plan.

El-Rufai also disclosed how governors had resolved to collaborate with the federal government on implementation of the plan.

“In agriculture, each state is to make available 20 hectares of land for cultivation and with the contribution of lands from states, he added that governors will appreciate land clearance as an incentive.

“In mass housing, NEC welcomes the plan to build 300,000 housing units across the country with an average of ten thousand homes per State,” El-rufai said while also calling for a nationwide mortgage system to support the plan.

At the virtual meeting, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, was said to have presented the 2021 to 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) to the council.

The minister, who also presented balances in the three accounts of the federation to the council as at July 7, 2020, said $72,406,952.48 was in Excess Crude Account (ECA); N40, 310,991,995.15 in stabilisation account while the Natural Resources Development Fund Account had a balance of N131, 598,414,041.89.