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Governors flay Senators, Reps over Infectious Disease Bill

From Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

The controversy trailing the handling of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 by the National Assembly has continued with governors asking the National Assembly halt all activities in relation to the bill.

The governors also expressed worry over the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country and its impact on the finances of the states.

They resolved to approach the Federal Government for financial assistance and to seek  clarification on the distribution of  recovered looted funds.

The chief executives of states made this known after the 8th COVID-19 teleconference of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Wednesday.

The governors, in a communiqué made available to reporters on Thursday, expressed discomfort that they were not consulted by the National Assembly on the infectious diseases bill as the leaders of anti-COVID efforts in their respective states.

According to the communiqué which was signed by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi: “The governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with state governments, who are at the forefront of the epidemic.

*The forum resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.”

According to the communiqué, members of the NGF took the decision after they were briefed by Sokoto State Governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal  on the content of the bill and the implication of its passage into law.

The forum proceeded to establish a committee comprising the Governors of Katsina (Aminu Masari), Sokoto (Tambuwal) and Plateau (Simon Lalong) to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the  controversial  bill. The  NGF secretariat was mandated to comprehensively review the bill and its implication on states.

Members of the NGF also raised concern over the 4,787 COVID-19 cases across the country  (as of May 12, 2020).

They  noted that “the worrying trend urgently calls for additional measures by states to ramp up capacity for testing, increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per state, accelerate the procurement of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and training of  health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of inter-state restriction of movements.

“In line with the commitment made by the forum to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, governors are making warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives and have appointed state coordinators who will be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.”

The governors also expressed concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the finances of their states and resolved among others, to approach the Federal Government for assistance.

They said: “Following an update on the rising trend of deductions from revenues accruable to the federation account available for distribution to the three tiers of government, we noted the threat this poses on the fiscal capacity of states to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Members also raised concern about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account.

“We agreed to engage with the Federal Government to ensure that the governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments recognise state governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making.

“We have followed with interest, the development of the 12-month Economic Sustainability Plan by the Federal Government, which is designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the spirit of developing a truly coordinated national response to the crisis, we expressed the importance of greater consultation and collaboration between the federal and state governments on development planning.

“A committee was consequently set up to interface with the federal government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan. The Committee is made up of the governors of Bauchi( Bala Mohammed), Plateau (Lalong), Kebbi (Abubakar Bagudu), Akwa Ibom(Udom Emmanuel), Abia (Okezie Ikpeazu) and Ekiti(Fayemi).

“A second committee, comprising the governors of Gombe(Inuwa Yahaya), Nasarawa (Abdullahi Sule), Delta (Ifeanyi Okowa), Ebonyi(Dave Umahi), Oyo(Seyi Makinde) and Kaduna( Nasir El-Rufai) was established to steer the activities of the NGF-NESG Economic Roundtable (NNER) – a sub-national platform of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group created to promote sub-national competitiveness through public-private collaboration.

“To fast-track the deployment of e-procurement across States, the Forum will be adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the Kaduna State government providing the framework agreement that other states can leverage on.”

The NGF added that the meeting received a briefing from the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, on the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19.

Kyari was said to have informed the governors that intervention by players in oil industry was to provide medical consumables to states, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

The forum also congratulated Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.

It wished him ”well and looks forward to a fruitful partnership that will support the development of the country.”

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