By Chuks Okocha
Governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday highlighted challenges foisted on them by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to them the pandemic almost ruined governance and the economies of the states.
The Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, while hosting the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, yesterday in Abuja, added that the states were severely affected as many could not meet their obligations to workers and others.
Mohammed visited the forum as part of her tour of some West African countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Fayemi said although the virus hit Nigeria in March 2020, later than other countries, the country now has over 64,090 confirmed cases and 1,154 deaths.
Other impacts, he said, included the fall in oil prices, contracting tax base, loss of sources of livelihood, unemployment, youth restiveness (#EndSARS protest), increasing the inflation rate, worsening exchange rate and decline in productivity due to necessary lockdown measures initiated globally and nationally.
Explaining how the various states handled the pandemic, 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 Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development got all the support they required in delivering swift containment measures”.
Also, at the National Economic Council (NEC) level, “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,” he added.
Explaining that this is a period to turn adversity into opportunity, 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 per cent 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).”
According to him, the pandemic compelled governors to see the “need for retooling ourselves on how best to become accountable to the electorate.”
Two governors, Mr. Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State and Senator Hope Uzodinma, his Imo State counterpart attended the meeting with the UN deputy secretary-general in person while more than 20 others joined by zoom from their respective states.
Most of the other governors who contributed in the conversation with Mohammed echoed the same things that the Fayemi had said earlier.
Responding to their pleas for assistance from the UN, Mohammed said the UN does not give financial aids but creates an enabling environment for those that do.
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.
She urged the nation’s leadership to see young people as an asset or else they would not have a peaceful retirement.