Onyekachi Eze, Abuja
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has challenged state governments to prepare to take ownership of the COVID-19 response, especially with the expected winding up of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 by the end of this month.
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the 12-member task force in March this year with six-month mandate to provide response to the spread of novel coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria.
The PTF, which is headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, has Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; and Director General of Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihukwuazi, as members. The six-month period expires this September.
The president also made available N920 million to health institutions in the country to contain the pandemic.
NGF Chairman, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in a communiqué at the end of the 16th virtual meeting of the forum on Wednesday, said the Chairman of the NGF sub-committee interfacing with the PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, updated the meeting on the importance of continued and increased testing in all states as the economy opens.
“He called on states to take ownership of the COVID-19 response, especially with the expected winding of the PTF by the end of September 2020.
“Low testing rates at any time will make it difficult to track the correct status of the pandemic in the country thus making it difficult to make important decisions like opening of schools, NYSC camps, holding elections etc,” Fayemi, who is governor of Ekiti State, disclosed.
He assured that the NGF, through its sub-committee on COVID-19, would address concerns raised by states on the reception of new prison inmates to curtail the spread of the virus across correctional facilities in the country.
“The forum resolved to provide leadership to the COVID-19 response in their respective states by ramping up risk communication activities and community testing for COVID-19.
“Governors received updates on the status of pending COVID-19 interventions for states.
“Governors were concerned by the delay in the release of the results of the SMART survey conducted for the Saving One Million Lives Performance for Results (SOML-PforR) Project,” he stated.
Fayemi also disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health has approved the disbursement of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) facility to eligible states to safeguard government interventions in primary health care service delivery during the pandemic.
The governor said the NGF received a Rotary International Polio Certification Award for its role in eradicating polio in Nigeria.
“The forum had made polio a permanent item on its agenda for at least 18 months and was instrumental in maintaining high political commitment and coordination for routine immunisation in all parts of the country.
“In the light of Rotary’s recognition of the forum’s role in ending the polio pandemic in the country, governors are called to maintain vigilance to ensure that the structures put in place for routine immunisation are not jeopardised by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fayemi added.
On the geographic information system (GIS) that will help states gather, manage and analyse geospatial data for the purpose of special planning and property taxation, the governor stated that the World Bank has pledged a new technical assistance programme to support state governments in updating their records of at least 50 per cent of properties that have electricity connections in urban areas by June 30, 2021.
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