Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has resolved to strengthen risk communication pillars of state COVID-19 task teams as proposed by the Presidential Task Force on the prevention of the spread of the disease.
Towards this end, the governors have agreed to enhance collaboration with the National Orientation Agency, state orientation agencies, religious and traditional institutions, as well as civil societies.
Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi is the latest of the governors to test positive to the virus. His counterparts in Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Ebonyi, David Umahi; Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa; Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai; Bauchi, Bala Mohammed; Oyo, Seyi Makinde, have all tested positive to the virus and recovered.
The decision to deploy risk communication was contained in a communique signed by the NGF Chairman and Fayemi, at the end of the Forum’s 13th teleconference meeting on Wednesday.
The resolution followed an update from Dr Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the PTF on COVID-19, who stressed the need to for Governors to strengthen the risk communication pillar of the COVID-19 pandemic response.
He urged all the state governors to raise the profile of the pillar by appointing the Honourable Commissioner of Information as Chairman and a senior traditional leader in the State as Co-Chair with the State Health promotion officer as Secretary. He al advised that membership should be broad-based including relevant MDAs such as NOA, development partners and private sector.
He added that a similar structure should also be created in each of the Local Government Areas.
He also recommended that state governors hold a high-level meeting of traditional and religious leaders with the expanded risk communication team to strategize on achieving the level of community engagement essential for influencing positive behaviour and the uptake of health and safety measures by the public during the period of the pandemic.
The governors also agreed to step-up the current efforts by taking key health and safety measures to the doorsteps of Nigerians in all 774 Local Government Areas in the country.
It was also agreed that ‘state governments, through their ministries of finance, will utilise technical assistance available within the NGF Secretariat to publish their approved amended 2020 COVID-19-responsive budgets by 31st July 2020; maintain the implementation of a tax compliance relief programme for individual taxpayers and business to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis; issue emergency procurement guidelines, and adopt procedures to facilitate the participation of small and medium scale enterprises in state procurement by 30th September 2020.’
The communique also stated: ‘In the light of the proposed partnership with the CBN on the ABP, an official MoU signing will be held on Tuesday, 28th June 2020. The initiative will be followed by the establishment of a joint project team, engagement with stakeholders and launch during the 2020 dry season farming.’
The Forum was also briefed by governors and technical partners on the economic impact and possible response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The update also highlighted additional health funding available to State governments from the federal government estimated at around N2.1 billion per State and Hot Spot Strategy which prioritize COVID-19 interventions in local government areas with elevated incidences.