Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The governors of the 36 states of the federation have resolved to retain till next year the tax relief measures put in place in their states to lessen the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.
Also, with the expected winding up of the six-month activities of the Presidential Task (PTF) on COVID-19 by September 17, the governors have decided to provide leadership for the COVID-19 responses in their respective states by ramping up risk communications activities and community testing for the pandemic.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari has just extended the lifespan of the task force to December 31.
Theses resolutions formed part of the outcome of the 16th teleconference meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) held on Wednesday.
According to a communiqué of the meeting, which was issued yesterday and signed by its Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, “All state governments through their Internal Revenue Services (IRS) will ensure the seamless implementation of tax relief programmes for businesses and tax payers.
“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 also resolved to work, through its sub-committee interfacing with the PTF on COVID-19 to address concerns raised by states on the reception of new inmates amidst measures taken to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities.
“The forum resolved to provide leadership to the COVID 19 response in their respective states by ramping up risk communication activities and community testing for COVID-19,” the communiqué added.
The forum called on state governments to nominate focal persons that will interface with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on the actualisation of the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP).
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. 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 is intended to spur revitalisation across gas-based industries in fertiliser, methanol, textiles and feedstock for industries among others.
The forum urged governors to maintain vigilance to ensure that the structures put in place for routine polio immunisation are not jeopardised by the COVID-19 pandemic in the light of Rotary International’s recognition of the forum’s role in ending the polio pandemic in the country.
It commended the World Bank for the new initiative to support the states in updating their property records.
The forum noted that some states are already in advanced stages of developing a geographic information system (GIS) that will help them gather, manage and analyse geospatial data both for spatial planning and property taxation.
The NGF Legal Committee, led by its Vice Chairman and Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, updated members on consultations with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to resolve concerns on the implementation of the Executive Order Number 10 seeking to enforce autonomy for states’ legislature and judiciary.
According to the committee, a technical committee, comprising members from all parties, has been working to finalise an acceptable framework for the implementation of the executive order.
Also, the Chairman of the NGF sub-committee interfacing with the PTF on COVID-19, Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, updated the forum on the importance of continued and increased testing in all states as the economy reopens.
Okowa called on states to take ownership of the COVID-19 response, especially with the expected winding up of the PTF.
He noted that “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 the opening of schools, NYSC camps, holding elections, etc.”
Fayemi also provided an update on the disbursement of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) facility to eligible states as approved by the Ministry of Health to safeguard government interventions in primary healthcare service delivery during the pandemic.