By Chuks Okocha
Governors of the 36 states of the federation Wednesday told the deputy Secretary general of the United Nations how the Covid-19 pandemic affected governance and development in Nigeria in the period under review.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, enumerated some of the challenges of governance in the country and how the pandemic affected the nation’s economy and whittled down its super structure at the subnational level.
He spoke when the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, visited the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat as part of her tour of some West African States including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Dr. Fayemi said that although the virus hit Nigeria in March 2020, later than other countries, its impact had been ravaging with over 64,090 confirmed cases and 1,154 deaths.
Other impacts, he said, include the fall in oil prices, contracting tax base, loss of sources of livelihood, unemployment, youth restiveness (ENDSARS Protest), increasing inflation rate, worsening exchange rate, decline in productivity due to necessary lockdown measures initiated globally and nationally.
Explaining how the various states handled the pandemic at the subnational level, Fayemi stated that as a responsive group, “we worked collaboratively, co-opting ideas and welcoming support from critical stakeholders including partners and the private sector.
“At the wake of the pandemic, we worked with the Federal Government to ensure the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Presidential Task Force (PTF), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development got all the support it required in delivering swift containment measures”.
At the National Economic Council (NEC) level, he continued, “we developed a COVID-19 response plan encompassing health, economic and socio-economic, immediate to medium term measures needed to combat the virus and its impact.”
Explaining that this is a period to turn adversity into opportunity, Dr Fayemi said “at the subnational level, we set up intervention funds, social investment programmes, distributed palliatives, launched tax incentive programmes to protect and support livelihoods as well as businesses.
“This is reflected in our 2020 amended State budgets of which 10 percent was earmarked for COVID-19 response expenditures and the recent partner interventions undertaken by States including the World Bank $750 million States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) additional financing, $750 million COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) programme for results and the $100 million Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE)”.
The Ekiti State governor also told Mohammed that the pandemic had compelled governors to see the “need for retooling ourselves, on how best to become accountable to the electorate.”
Two governors, Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State and Senator Hope Uzodinma, his Imo State counterpart, attended the meeting with the Deputy Secretary General in person while more than twenty others joined by zoom from their respective states.
Most of the other governors who contributed in the conversation with Amina Mohammed echoed the same things that the NGF Chairman had said earlier.
Responding to their pleas for assistance from the UN the Deputy Secretary General says that the UN does not write cheques but creates enabling environment for those who have the checks to do so.
She commended the governors for the mature manner with which they handled the ENDSARS demonstrations, even though she regretted that some ugly influences eventually contaminated the protests.
The deputy secretary general advised the nation’s leadership to see young people as an asset or else they would not eventually have a peaceful retirement.