(Updated) Govs Want Disease Control Bill ‘Stepped down’

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* To interface with National Assembly leadership
* Demand additional measures to curb COVID-19
* Raise concern over recovered Abacha loot

Governors of the 36 states of the federation have kicked against the controversial infectious disease bill currently before the National Assembly and unanimously asked that it should be stepped down for now.

Rising from their eighth virtual meeting Thursday, the governors also raised a committee to interface with the leadership of National Assembly, while also calling for more consultations and the need for a public hearing on bill the after the interface.

Also, the governors raised concerns over the continued spike in the coronavirus, restating the need for more measures by the states to ramp up the fight against the virus.

A communiqué released after the meeting said the governor also expressed concern over the management and disbursements of the recovered funds stolen by former military Head of State, Late General Sani Abacha.

The communique signed by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) Dr. Kayode Fayemi, read:

“Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the forum, H. E. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 introduced by the House of Representatives, 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.

“In the light of this, the Forum established a Committee comprising the Governors of Katsina, Sokoto and Plateau to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020. The NGF Secretariat was also mandated to comprehensively review the Bill and its implication on States”.

The communique also said the governors expressed concerned with the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country which reached 4,787 as at 12th May 12 2020 based on an update from the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19.

“The worrying trend urgently calls for additional measures by State Governors 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 for health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement”, the communiqué said.

It further stated that in line with the commitment made by the Forum to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, governors were making warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives and had appointed State Coordinators who will be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.

Also, the communique said that 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, the governors noted the threat this poses to the fiscal capacity of states to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the communiqué, “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.

“The Forum agreed to engage with the federal government to ensure that the governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments recognize State governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making.”

Noting that the Forum had followed with interest, the development of the 12-month Economic Sustainability Plan by the federal government, designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the governors said, “In the spirit of developing a truly coordinated national response to the crisis, Governors expressed the importance of greater consultation and collaboration between the federal and state governments on development planning”.

The governors raised a Committee to interface with the federal government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan.

The Committee is made up of the governors of Bauchi, Plateau, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Ekiti.

Also at the meeting, the governors 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, set up by oil and gas operators to provide medical consumables to states, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

According to the communique, the governors commended NNPC for leading the industry to take the initiative and advised the group to prioritize interventions that will boost the country’s testing capacity and the capacity of health workers who are at the frontline of the epidemic.

The communique said following an update from the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, on the operation of the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) project which is supporting a strong pro-poor fiscal response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, “State Governors agreed to take additional measures to strengthen their public financial management systems, including a revision of their 2020 budgets and the amendment of State procurement guidelines to support e-procurement and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises”.

The communique said that the governors resolved “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”.

Also, a second committee comprising the governors of Gombe, Nasarawa, Delta, Ebonyi, Oyo and Kaduna was established to steer the activities of the NGF-Nigeria Economic Summit Group (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.

It added that Governor Fayemi briefed state governors on existing coordination activities with the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the private sector through the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

This, the communique said was in addition to ongoing activities aimed at strengthening the public health response and the delivery of palliatives to vulnerable persons, stating that the Forum is coordinating an additional response with the support of the Dangote Foundation to set up a volunteer work force of health personnel who will be trained and deployed to strengthen the availability of health workers in the states in critical need.

The governors’ forum congratulated the newly appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and said it looks forward to a fruitful partnership that will support the development of the country.

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