Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi has said the two weeks extension of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states although it is tough, is “the right way to go.”
Fayemi said this in his first teleconference meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari where they both discussed current issues of national importance.
This was contained in a press statement released last night by Head, Media and Public Affairs Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo.
The teleconference meeting which was at the instance of the NGF was warmly embraced by President Buhari.
Fayemi told the president that Monday’s address to the nation succinctly captured the mood of the nation and showed that his administration is in touch with the plight of the man on the street.
The NGF chairman also told the president that the targeted testing strategy adopted by the country had done a lot; however, the Ekiti State governor stated that there was a need for more testing.
The NGF chairman added that the governors were desirous of having some more testing facilities so as to deepen the gains already made by the NCDC.
Fayemi briefed President Buhari on the distribution of palliatives and urged the president to instruct the relevant authorities to use the machineries of the state governments so that the palliatives would penetrate all nooks and crannies of the country.
The “palliatives,” the NGF chairman explained, “would be even more meaningful if they were distributed through the state governors.”
Fayemi told Buhari that since the outbreak of the pandemic, governors had been meeting on a regular basis and met four times over an initial span of 12 days.
He said that the governors would be having their next 5th teleconference meeting on Wednesday 15th April, to review the strategies so far put in place in their various states and apply peer- learning mechanism to share experiences and collectively adopt areas of successes for the good of their citizens.
The SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha and PTF coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, would be joining the governors in tomorrow’s meeting, just as the CBN governor, Aliko Dangote and Herbert Wigwe will all be addressing the governors at the meeting.
The meeting between the NGF chairman and the president stretched into the economy and the NGF chairman told the president that states were going through rough times and would like to appeal to the president to take certain decisive decisions to ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian people.
Fayemi thanked the president for the approval of the release of $150 million to augment projected FAAC shortfall in June but added that more needs to be done to keep the states properly afloat. “More needs to be done,” he told the president.
Fayemi alluded to the revenues from the Liquified Natural Gas, LNG, which he said could help in assuaging some issues related to revenue shortfalls and reiterated a point from the 4th NGF teleconference meeting of the governors where they called for the suspension of all deductions by the Federal Government so that states can address the Covid-19 challenge from a position of economic strength.
Fayemi also told the president that there was the need to streamline all multi-lateral and bilateral interventions and funding so that states are also integrated and considered because of the difficulties that they were going through.
He commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-9 which he said is doing a great job because the challenges that the Coronavirus had thrown at them was huge but added on a lighter mood that “hunger-vid is equally as lethal,” further adding that because it puts governors at the receiving end of the hardships, all governors would be happier if their requests were met.
He commended the president for the manner in which he had always rescued the sates. He recalled the presidential approvals for bailouts, budget support facility, London Paris Club refund, etc.
Governor Fayemi assured Mr. President that if established, FGN debts to states like the outstanding PAYE defrayed, the poor and vulnerable in the country and the citizens would be better taken care of.
“I know your penchant for caring for the poor and the downtrodden in the country. Mr President, and I am telling you that allocations from FAAC have dropped significantly; so if you turn your magnanimity towards governors and their states into looking at other debts that continue to linger in the system and prioritise their payments, poor people will be the happier,” Fayemi emphasised.
He further told the president that all the 36 states’ governments were currently reviewing their budgets downwards to conform with the prevailing realities.
He stated that the forum members align themselves with the efforts of the Federal Government and called for synergy in governance. He urged the president to also encourage the evolution of a national strategic plan that would encompass the sub-national level so that the country will find a fast and easy way out of the woods.
Fayemi also brought to the attention of the president, the plight of the informal sector workers who are daily paid in the country whom he said have not been captured in the national register and were therefore exempted from the conditional cash transfer, saying that their plight needed to be quickly addressed before our situation crumbled into the “Ecuadorian Alternative“ where the poor and vulnerable people of Ecuador flocked into the streets in violation of the stay-at- home order in their country.
Responding, President Buhari commended Fayemi for providing decent leadership at the forum and keeping all governors on course which he said had helped the Federal Government to find easy access to the sub-national level.
The president then asked the NGF chairman to formalise all the requests of the governors and forward them to him and promised that they would be promptly addressed.