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COVID-19: Nigerians are hungry, Governors’ Forum Chairman tells Buhari

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has told President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerians are hungry due to the lockdown imposed as part of measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria.

Dr Kayode, in his teleconference meeting with President Buhari on Wednesday, urged him to use State governors in the distribution of palliatives to the people.

A statement by Head of Media, NGF secretariat, Mr Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, quoted Dr Kayemi as saying that the State governments are going through tough times, requesting for Presidential directive for the relevant authorities to use the machineries of the State governments in the distribution of palliatives so as to reach all nooks and crannies of the country. 

“Palliatives would be even more meaningful if they were distributed through the State Governors,” Fayemi was quoted to have told the President.

The Ekiti State Governor urged the President to take a decisive action to ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian people, describing the two weeks extension of the lockdown as necessary but tough.

The statement said that the Governor commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for “doing a great job because the challenges that the Coronavirus has thrown at them was huge.”

Fayemi thanked the President for the approval of the release of $150 million to augment projected FAAC (Federation Allocation and Account Committee) shortfall in June but added that more needs to be done to keep the States properly afloat. 

The NGF Chairman made allusion to the revenues from the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), which he said could help in assuaging some issues related to revenue shortfalls.

He reiterated the demand of the Governors at their earlier teleconference meeting concerning the suspension of all deductions by the Federal Government so that States could address the COVID-19 challenge from a position of economic strength.

According to the statement, Dr. Fayemi also told the President that there was the need to streamline all multi-lateral and bilateral interventions and funding so that States could be integrated and considered because of the difficulties that they are going through.

The NGF Chairman further told the President that the 36 State governments were currently reviewing their budgets downwards to conform with the prevailing realities, and called for synergy in governance. 

He urged President Buhari to encourage the evolution of a national strategic plan that would encompass the sub-national level so that the country would find a fast and easy way out of the current economic problems.

Governor Fayemi assured the President that “if established FGN debts to states like the outstanding PAYE are 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.”

He commended President Buhari for his previous interventions to rescue the states through bailouts, budget support facility, London Paris Club refund, etc. 

“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,” the Ekiti State Governor emphasized.

The Ekiti Governor also made case for the informal sector workers who were exempted from the conditional cash transfer because they were not captured in the national register, and warned against what he described as “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.

He commended the strategy adopted by the Federal Government in testing targeted persons for coronavirus but stated that there was 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 Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). 

President Buhari in his response, told the Chairman to formalise all the requests and forward them to him, and promised that they would be promptly attended to.

The President commended Fayemi for providing decent leadership at the Forum, which he said, has helped the Federal Government to find easy access to the sub-national level.

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